Students take hacksaw to beloved campus icon
Students damaged the Fence with a hacksaw last Monday. At around 4 p.m., a group of students observed individuals cutting through a crosspiece and column of the Fence. Facilities Management Services staff covered the damaged portions with duct tape and plastic as a temporary measure, fully repairing it the next day.
Nicholas Petrillo, a senior mechanical engineering major, was an eyewitness to the vandalism. He recalled that he was initially confused before he realized what was actually happening.
“Basically I was walking across from Baker Hall to the University Center,” he said. “As I was walking up to the Fence, it looked as if [students] were putting stuff on [it]. I thought maybe there was an art project happening on the Fence — it’s happened before.... As I got down by the flagpole, I look back and I see someone with a saw.”
Petrillo and his friends immediately went into the University Center and approached members of the Office of Student Activities. “We went over the [student] activities office and asked [if there was] something going on with the Fence.... I said, ‘I think someone is taking a saw to the Fence,’ ” Petrillo said. Upon hearing that students were actively defacing the Fence, the Student Activities staff members responded to the scene along with a University Police officer. “We grabbed a [Carnegie Mellon] officer, and we all walked over and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Petrillo said.
Will Weiner, a sophomore economics and social and decision sciences dual major, was with Petrillo when the students responsible for the vandalism were approached and questioned. “It was really weird, too, because they were just sitting there,” Weiner said. “We approached the Fence, and [the students] tried to conceal the saw.... We asked what they were doing, if it was for an art project, and they responded ‘kind of.’ We told them to stop and leave.... A fair bit of damage had been done at that point.”
According to Weiner and Petrillo, the responsible students saw the paint peeling from the rain and thought it looked interesting; from there, they obtained a saw and began to chip away at the Fence.
The names of the students were collected by the members of the Office of Student Affairs who accompanied Petrillo and Weiner to the Fence. Those students present at the scene reported that the vandals were first-year art majors, although the Office of Student Affairs has not released a list. Dean of Student Affairs Gina Casalegno confirmed her office’s involvement and indicated that an official investigation is ongoing.
The aftermath of the event left students angry and upset. “When I saw the pictures, I ran over here and my heart stopped,” said Molly Walter, a junior psychology major. “I felt sick. I love the Fence.”
As soon as word of the defacement spread, students gathered to discuss and explore solutions of how to repair the campus icon. The event resulted in a cross-campus discussion on the meaning and tradition of the Fence. A majority of the students gathered around the landmark were visibly upset with what had occurred. “I’m just glad we managed to stop them.... [The Fence] is a big part of Carnegie Mellon. I’m just very angry,” Weiner said.