By Saj Sri-Kumar
Seniors doodled in permanent marker on a table in the upper school quad last week. The drawings included animals, funny faces, and toast.
While administrators branded the doodles as graffiti, the students responsible said they believed they were simply expressing themselves artistically, claiming there was no victim.
“It’s our way of leaving our mark on the tables we sat at for years,” Norman* ’12 said.
“I’m disappointed,” Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra said. “That kind of thing doesn’t happen around here very often.”
“I was disappointed and surprised, because it is unusual to see graffiti on either Harvard-Westlake campus, particularly in very public spaces,” Head of School Jeanne Huybrecths said.
Norman said that the administration overlooked the ways the doodling helped the seniors come together as a community.
“It brought people together,” he said. “I saw people from all different friend groups come over and doodle.”
Part of the motivation for the doodles was the school’s theme for the year, “Make Your Mark,” the students said. The theme was scrawled in a few places on the table.
Huybrechts said when she chose the motto, she recognized the possibility that it could be misconstrued.
“I selected the ‘Make Your Mark’ motto with a bit of trepidation, knowing that it could be misrepresented in this fashion,” she said. “I cannot surmise the students’ motives. I can only hope that the motto ‘Make Your Mark,’ which was intended as a call to positive action, will not be misinterpreted in the future.”
The students said they took care to ensure that the drawings were not obscene.
“None of the doodles were offensive,” Norman said. “There were mostly animals with friendly faces. That could have been a table full of d****. There was no sense that we were screwing with Huybrechts or anything.”
Huybrechts, however, said that the doodling violated the school’s Honor Code.
“[The students’] expression may have been artistic, but it was also a defacement of school property, which is a violation of school rules and the Honor Code,” she said.
While Salamandra said he appreciated the students’ care to avoid objectionable content, he also said he believed that the students’ actions were misguided.
“I’m happy to hear that they weren’t being malicious and trying to vandalize the place,” he said. “But Harvard-Westlake students should be able to look past the narrow scope of ‘Oh, this would look pretty.’ If they want to express themselves artistically, there are lots of avenues here on campus to do that.”
Salamandra said he hoped that bulletin boards on the second floor of the Seaver Academic Center could be converted to allow students to hang their artwork.
Currently, some of the boards hold art projects created in various visual arts classes, but he said that he hopes additional unused boards could be used for independent student work, including new boards that would cover the now-unusable doorway that leads to the Kutler Center construction site.
“If we need more space, we’ll find more space, because student art is a good thing as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “The problem is if it’s on the table and it’s viewed as graffiti by some and not as art, it’s a different story.”
The maintenance department covered the doodles with a coat of paint on Friday.
*names have been changed