Wall of Faces Permanently Removed

Photo: The 'Thanks to Berkeley' wall has been permanently removed from campus due to the high cost of repairing damage from protesters.
Christopher McDermut/Photo
The 'Thanks to Berkeley' wall has been permanently removed from campus due to the high cost of repairing damage from protesters.

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Due to extensive damage during student protests and high maintenance and repair costs, the "Thanks to Berkeley" wall was permanently removed from its location outside of Dwinelle Hall.

The wall, which prominently displayed pictures of students and quotes about their experiences at UC Berkeley, was first vandalized soon after it was constructed in September 2008. But the destruction escalated when images were torn from the wall during the Nov. 19 protest, and campus officials decided to permanently remove the wall Jan. 6.

"We struggled with the notion of taking it down," said David Blinder, associate vice chancellor for university relations. "You hate to give in ... But given the financial state, you don't want to spend money on what you don't have to spend it on."

The wall was created as a marketing tool for the fundraising initiative "Campaign for Berkeley" and was a "tribute to the diversity of Berkeley," according to Blinder. Yet the idea of the wall met heavy criticism.

"I, like many other students, believe that the wall offers an uncritical and unrealistic portrayal of UC Berkeley through a manufactured sense of diversity and perfection," said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Ricardo Gomez in an e-mail.

Vandalism to the wall cost the campus no more than $2,000 each year, according to Jose Rodriguez, campaign communications manager, who said the cost was low because most damage was covered by insurance.

The wall was laminated with a coating that protected the images against graffiti, but ripped images on the wall made the cost of repair too high.

Before it was torn down, the final wall had been graffitied with "your apathy = our fees" and ripped. It had featured students who had "donated to support the University through their senior class gift," Mary Keegan, director of development communications, said in an e-mail.

Gomez helped organize the Nov. 19 protest, but said he did not participate in the destruction of the wall and did not agree with the "message and execution" of the vandalism.

"If you want people to care about something, you can't expect that some accusatory and ugly words on a wall are going to do the trick," Gomez said in the e-mail. "With that said, I'm not going to throw whoever did that under the bus. I don't think that using the wall as a canvas for public discourse was in any way wrong."

However, with over 2,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents having participated in the campaign, Blinder said he believes the majority of people supported the wall.

He added that campaign organizers are seeking new ways to spread the message of the campaign.

"Berkeley is a place where there is rarely unanimity," Blinder said. "It only takes a few people in their own expressions of incivility to unfortunately wreck it for everybody else."


Mary Susman covers communities. Contact her at [email protected]

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