An open letter addressing the defacers of the Fence

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

To the students who defaced the Fence, and future would-be defacers of public property: It’s questionable what went through your minds when you took a hacksaw to the Fence. It is also questionable where you managed to get a hacksaw in the first place. We’re a college campus, not Carnegie Carpentry, so it’s a little disconcerting that sharp tools are apparently lying around so accessibly.

That being said: It’s obvious to you, me, and the entire campus community that what was done to the Fence was an atrocity. The outpouring of anger on Facebook and Twitter should prove that much; I can assure you that had you decided to take a hacksaw to, say, Wean Hall, there wouldn’t be a tear shed. (In fact, if you decide to get tool-happy again, take out that small snowman statue near Doherty. No one has any idea what it’s supposed to be.) But you chose this particular piece of campus property, and you got your comeuppance in response.

There are those who use facts to claim that this anger is misplaced: that the school takes layers off occasionally to do maintenance, that it’s just paint, or that the Fence itself is a facsimile of the original. That’s valid. To some, the outrage over the Fence seems overblown at a time when other events in the news could certainly use more campus attention. But there’s a good reason for it; the simple truth of the matter is that the Fence is nearly all we have. We’re a young school. We don’t have secret societies and famous statues and stunning historic buildings from the Colonial era. We’re content with Booth, Buggy, Carnival, and the Fence — and that’s it, really. We have “Walking to the Sky,” but that’s more like the unwanted bastard child of our campus than anything else. The Fence is our legitimate heir: beautiful, front-and-center, and — until this week — unspoiled.

If you could see under the paint, my dear defacers, you’d have thought twice. The marriage proposals, the solemn messages to classmates who have passed away, the countless events and gatherings are all there — the words of the hundreds of students who came before you, some of whom are now gone from this world. The Fence is a piece of painted metal, but it is also a primary record. It is a way for generations of people to leave their mark; to say, “We were here, and so was our barbecue wing night.”

The importance of these traditions is not their physical presence, but their symbolic value to the campus as a whole. When you cut into the Fence, you were cutting into a lot more than paint. I hope you’ve at least learned something important about the proper use of sharp tools from this whole experience. More importantly, I hope you’ve learned that the Fence is not just private property. It’s a tangible representation of our shared experience as one student body, compressed like the rings of a tree. That shared experience, more than anything, is what makes us Tartans; and that’s why we need to protect it.