Campus Bathrooms: A Common Place for Graffiti

The bathrooms at IU Southeast are full of different types of graffiti, but boredom isn’t the only reason graffiti artists choose the bathroom as their canvas.

Connor Shipley, Staff Reporter

Graffiti is a common sight to see in both male and female restrooms around campus. Why is this so frequently looked over and what makes writing on the bathroom walls so tempting?

While illegal in the state of Indiana and against the IU Southeast Code of Student Rights Responsibilities, & Conduct, the university may discipline students for damage or destruction of university property.

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, graffiti is defined as paintings, writings, or scratchings that have been put on a wall or surface for public view. Dating back to ancient Greek and Egypt Empires, graffiti was used as a way to tell stories or communicate.

In today’s world, graffiti is used in a very similar way. Graffiti artists today are known to use bathroom walls, train cars, street signs, and public buildings as a canvas to display their skills.

Known as Banksy, the world-renowned anonymous graffiti artist has inspired other graffiti artists all over the world to use their art to express their own feelings and opinions. By secretly commenting on political and social issues in their art, Banksy helps to redirect the purpose behind modern graffiti.

Secrecy is a large aspect of graffiti implemented by Banksy. Not truly knowing the person behind the art allows the viewer to connect to the art in their own way. No distraction, just the art and the message the viewer receives.

Indiana vandalism laws may state that graffiti is a form of vandalism, but the artist’s intent shows otherwise. Dr. Lucinda Woodward, professor of psychology at IU Southeast, says that there is a common misconception about graffiti.

“Vandalism is aimed more towards destruction while graffiti is more of a form of graphic expression,” Woodward said. “We see the same amount of graffiti between male and female restrooms, but see more vandalism in men’s restrooms.”

Woodward says that we may see more vandalism in the men’s restroom due to the direct connection between testosterone and aggression that men possess.

According to the Research Institute for Endocrine Sciences, Testosterone plays a significant role in the stimulation of behaviors such as aggression. Characterized as a stress hormone, Testosterone levels rise in moments of stress and competition.

Going to the bathroom is one of the few times where a student isn’t under the scrutiny of the public eye.

“This is a safe place for self-expression in schools, this is why you tend to see this more in the bathrooms on campus.””

— Dr. Lucinda Woodward, professor of psychology at IU Southeast

The bathroom is one of the few places around campus where you can be completely alone at times. The certain privacy guaranteed by a bathroom stall allows any student to think and artistically express their feelings however they want.

While the motive behind bathroom graffiti may be that it is anonymous, Jennifer Pelkey, senior art major, says that graffiti was a precursor to modern social media trends.

“Self-expression, yes. Some of it could be art, but if it is in the bathroom, I would say nine times out of 10 it is mostly there just to shock whoever sees it,” Pelkey said. “The anonymity of it is similar to the Internet and how you have your trolls on social media.”

On the other hand, graffiti can be used to voice the opinion of one person or an entire group of people. Seen on other campuses, graffiti has helped to shape a public thought process on a certain topic or conflict.

Where the graffiti is placed may depend on what kind of message the artist plans to send. Artists have been known to choose spots as hidden as the inside of the bathroom stall, or as big as the side of a railroad car.

Aubrey Griffee, psychology sophomore, says he believes people choose the restroom for a place to graffiti because it is a safe and easy way to be rebellious.

“I believe a person would choose to do this because it is mostly anonymous,” Griffee said. “No one is going to bust open the stall while you’re drawing something on the wall. They think it’s not as much of a crime because it can be easily repaired.”

While graffiti may seem like a harmless act, Rob Poff, executive director of facility operations, describes graffiti as an act of nuisance and says that one small marking can cause more damage to facility equipment than you might think.

“Cleaning graffiti requires our staff to use resources that could be used somewhere more important on campus,” said Poff. “Depending on the surface, repeat graffiti could cause deterioration and require the university to buy a new piece of equipment to replace the old.”