The battle against graffiti

We all know it when we see it. Whether it be a floor to ceiling drawing of Jesus, a racial slur, or a game of tic-tac-toe, graffiti is present in almost every bathroom in the school, much to the annoyance of the custodians in charge of erasing it.
John Ackermann, the Physical Plant Services (PPS) Manager, described the fight against bathroom graffiti as a daily struggle, “There are two cleaning shifts after school that spend most of their time cleaning the bathrooms, classrooms, cafeterias and hallways, and so on”.
The custodial staff spends their after school shifts removing as much graffiti as possible, though sometimes it is not possible to remove all of the graffiti in the school in a single night.
The graffiti usually comes in waves, according to Ackermann. After those responsible for a lot of graffiti graduate, the amount of graffiti usually goes down until a new group of kids with a passion for graffiti comes in and starts defacing the bathrooms.
For example, if there is a wave of offensive drawings or remarks, it is typically due to one person or one group of friends. So once they graduate, that specific type of offensive vandalism usually fades away until a new person or group of people comes along.
Specific bathrooms in the school are typically targeted by graffiti artists more often. The bathrooms by the scrounge in the basement, the first floor bathrooms by the lobby, and the third floor bathrooms by the library receive the most graffiti.
When the custodians clean the bathrooms they focus on erasing as much of the writing and drawings regardless of what they say or depict. All the graffiti, except for the particularly offensive graffiti, is erased indiscriminately, according to Ackermann.
Most students graffiti the bathroom walls as a joke, either to play a prank on their friends or just to write or draw something they think is funny.
“One time I wrote my friend’s phone number and ‘call for a good time’ underneath on the wall in the second floor bathroom” said junior Jonah Noel.
Individual student opinions on the graffiti seem to land somewhere on a spectrum. Some students love the graffiti and enjoy seeing it, some enjoy the more innocent vandalism but do not appreciate the more vulgar or attacking graffiti, while others are offended by it or feel that it places an unnecessary burden on the PPS staff.
“I think some of it’s funny, but some of it is definitely too personal.” said junior, Taylor Kwok.
“I feel like it’s really disrespectful to the PPS staff, because they work hard to keep the school clean and shouldn’t have to deal with unnecessary vandalism.” said junior William Kirby
Graffiti does place a time burden on the PPS staff, says Ackermann. Erasing it takes up valuable time that the custodians would rather spend cleaning the more typical and unavoidable messes in the school, cleaning door and window glass, for example.
Offensive graffiti, that is, graffiti that includes racist or sexist or otherwise offensive remarks or drawings, are photographed and then reported to the advisor chairs in an effort to find the offender.
The graffiti in the bathrooms has always been a problem here at New Trier and, according to Ackermann, does not appear to be disappearing or winding down any time soon.
Despite the incessant graffiti, Ackermann approaches it with a relentlessly positive attitude, “We’re here to help and to clean and we love it”.