Centennial banners representing 100 years of University of Mary Washington history, have been disappearing due to theft across the campus.
University students have stolen the 1908-2008 banners made of blue fabric from the light posts around the campus. According to Marty Morrison of University Relations, there have been 100 centennial banners placed around campus at a total cost of $9,013. Eight larger exterior vinyl banners also decorate campus at a cost of $4,300.
According to the 2007-2008 operating budget, the entire centennial celebration is costing the school $87,351. Morrison said that $28,653.93 has been spent thus far.
“I don’t care that they are stealing them,” said freshman Natalie Grossman. “It is bad though that the school has to pay more money to get new banners.”
The banner theft is a violation of the University’s honor code.
According to a student-wide e-mail from Vice President of Student Affairs Bernard Chirico, “The loss not only diminishes the centennial celebration but also could represent a violation of the honor system if taken by a UMW student.”
According to Stephen Gregg, the honor council president, punishment for the theft would be “at the discretion of the Honor Panel sitting the hearing.”
The e-mail asked that students return the banners to the University Police Office in Brent Hall. James Snipes, the Police Director, said that no banners have been returned since the e-mail went out on Sept. 27. No official report has been filed with the campus police department.
“I hope students will adhere to the honor code,” said Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker. “If you know someone who stole a banner, ask him or her to return it.”
Some are questioning the motives of the thieves. According to many students, the stealing of the banners is just harmless fun.
One anonymous thief stated, “I wanted to steal a banner from day one. It’s something cool to hang on your wall at home. I would not hang it on my wall in the dorm though because I don’t want to get caught.”
Another UMW student stated, “As a freshman, it is nice memorabilia since it‘s my first year here. At my cousin’s school, Sacred Heart University, people were stealing the signs so I got the idea from her. At her school they had to chain the signs down.”
Another explanation for the banner thefts is that the banners are relatively easy to dismantle. The freshman thief explained, “Two people go. The smaller person climbs the pole and cuts the two plastic pieces, then they loosen the top part. The second person loosens the bottom part, then you shimmy it off and run away really fast.”
Administrators are not chaining down banners yet, but instead are trying to convince students to return them and adhere to the honor code.
“Hopefully making students aware will help,” stated Chirico. “They are taking from themselves since we are a community.”
One banner thief mentioned that the bookstore on campus should start selling the banners at a low price so students will not have to steal them.
A much larger theft recently occurred over the summer. An unknown thief stole the university seal that is part of the larger sign on the corner of College Avenue and William Street.
These thefts, while appearing to be harmless fun, are costing the school more money and impacting campus aesthetic.
The school has worked hard to commemorate 100 years of history. The centennial banners are just one part in a yearlong celebration.