Administration has the unique opportunity to set disciplinary precedent

Carnegie Mellon’s cherished symbol, the Fence, was damaged by a group of first-years wielding a hacksaw.
The usually apathetic student body responded loudly, with hundreds of students coming out to the Fence Monday night to repaint and repair it as an act of campus solidarity. While we are proud of this campus turnout, we are cautious about the consequences of this vandalism and the attitude of the student body toward the students responsible.

We have two concerns about the campus response to this incident.

First, we urge students to respect the Division of Student Affairs’ official investigation and its ultimate decision. The university has protocols in place to deal with acts of vandalism and violations of community standards; they ensure that the consequences are fair to the community and to the accused students. Anyone who knows the identities of the students involved should keep their names confidential and not expose them to ridicule or threats. While we condemn these students’ actions, they should still feel safe on our campus.

To facilitate this, we urge students to stop the spread of rumors related to the incident. In the week following the vandalism of the Fence, a few students have transferred blame from the first-years directly responsible to larger groups. Some individuals have blamed the College of Fine Arts or the entire first-year class for the actions of a few first-year CFA students. These accusations are absurd and inappropriate. The actions of the accused students are not representative of their college or their year.

Our other concern relates to the official investigation by the university. It is clear to us that the accused students not only violated community standards but Carnegie Mellon property as well. According to The Word, the Carnegie Mellon student handbook, students responsible for damaging property will be responsible for any costs incurred, and they will face disciplinary action if such damage is intentional. While the specific consequences are entirely up to Student Affairs, the students who damaged the Fence should not get off with merely a slap on the wrist. Not only did they damage school property, they damaged a campus symbol treasured by students and alumni. At the very least, the students responsible should pay to have the Fence repaired.

Official investigations into student actions have an unfortunate habit of disappearing from public view after they begin. There was an incident last year where chickens were released on campus, and the community never heard what disciplinary action was meted out. In such cases, the administration should keep the student body informed as to the progress and result of its investigation. While the identities of students involved should of course be kept confidential, their punishment should not be. It should be an example to students that the administration is serious about preserving our community standards and our campus traditions.