As the fall semester starts winding down, the faculty and staff of the Rome campus have asked the students to do the same. The call was solicited by unprecedented incidents of vandalism occurring on and around the Due Santi campus.
At the Monday night meeting on Nov. 4, these various incidents were addressed and condemned formally by Professor of Classics, Director, Vice President, and Dean of Academics, Peter Hatlie. According to Hatlie, despite urging from the faculty, no one has stepped up to take responsibility for these actions.
Phallic images were drawn in the Shakespeare Alley. According to Benjamin Gibbs, the Director of Student Affairs in Rome, the images were drawn in marker and were positioned both in obscene locations on the Shakespeare side of the wall, as well as the currently blank side for students to record the semester’s memories.
Gibbs said in an interview that “[this] certainly is not the first time that this type of vandalism has happened on the Rome campus.” However, Hatlie said he has “never heard that other people have done this,” specifically the drawing of phallic images.
Hatlie cited himself in class the following Tuesday: “There’s definitely a maturity problem here … [However,] I don’t think there’s anyone out to destroy the character or the community [of the program].”
Gibbs called the grifiti a “small annoyance” in the aftermath of the report, primarily the cleaning. No exact information on when the images were drawn was available, but the incident was reported late last week.
“I sent out a note to everyone that vandalism or graffiti, particularly on an area that’s been … a traditional area for students to leave messages [is wrong],” said Gibbs.
“Once the fall 2019 Rome class starts to paint pictures and notes and leaving memories up on the wall in Shakespeare Alley … and there’s a sense of investment in the space, hopefully the graffiti will stop,” Gibbs said., He expects that, “There will be more of a personalized, artistic impression.”
The second incident of vandalism occurred on one of the properties neighboring the Due Santi campus. On the morning of Saturday, Nov. 2, the property owner reported to campus that broken beer and wine bottles had been shattered on his back patio. The neighbor accused UD students of throwing these bottles over the southwest fence between the mensa hall and the dormitory the previous night, according to Hatlie and Gibbs.
Hatlie said the neighbor reported yelling over the fence to stop the vandalism, but the bottles kept raining down. This was most concerning because of its proximity to their family pool and the danger of glass falling onto his grandchildren.
The property owner reported taking video evidence, but it is unclear whether the video shows the actual vandalism incident or the aftermath, according to Hatlie. There have been “fewer than a handful” of neighborhood incidents between the campus and the surrounding houses, according to Hatlie’s account of his 20 years in Rome; all previous incidents have been small.
Both Hatlie’s words at the Monday night meeting and Gibbs’ Saturday morning email warned students of a possible drinking sabbatical if this type of behavior is reported again. In Gibb’s email, he said, “Yyour attempts to socialize should not endanger the well-being of others in this community, specifically children.”
Hatlie doubted the property owner would pursue any further action, legal or otherwise.
This incident happened during the weekend of the Women’s Retreat, and a majority of the female students had left campus on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
Another instance of vandalism was of the Marian statue on the southwest corner of the intersection of Via Appia Antica and Via di Torricola. About six weeks ago, Hatlie was told over the phone by a fellow member of a neighborhood council that the statue of the Madonna was broken into pieces and left scattered on the side of the road. Hatlie immediately responded that “no University of Dallas student would ever do that,” as he accounts in the interview. In light of recent events, however, Hatlie said he no longer has the same level of trust in his immediate rejection of the accusation.
“Drinking transforms people,” Hatlie said. “There haven’t been tons of intoxication write- ups this semester, [though] it is possible students might be drinking [to excess] … more secretly.”
According to Hatlie, there has been a decline in excessive drinking over the past 10 to 15 years of the Rome Program.
“I’m not accusing anyone,” Hatlie said, “But where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
As of Thursday, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for any of these incidents, though Hatlie expressed at the Monday night meeting that there will be no penalty. Hatlie asked that whoever was involved to come forward, apologize and help deliver the gifts of reparation to the neighbor: a card, olive oil and a couple of bottles of wine.
“Students come here and have a really exciting and transformative experience for the four months that they’re here … it’s really valuable because you become a part of something that’s bigger than yourself, and even bigger than your class,” Gibbs said. “These types of actions, disruptive as they are, force all of us to take a step back in the relationships we’ve built with our community, so … students [being] good, upright, and mature young people helps us further the endeavor that we have here, which is to have one of the best study abroad programs in Italy.”