Sign vandalism a pricey problem for Whitworth

by Molly Daniels

Since January, there have been several incidents of vandalism on the Whitworth campus. Two letters were pried from the Whitworth University sign across from Cornerstone with a crowbar on March 1. The letters have not been recovered.

“It’s happened before. A couple of years ago some kids stole some letters,” security services supervisor Jacquelyn Christensen said. “From what I understand this is a recurring problem.”

The letters “T” and “H” were recently stolen. Christensen said each letter costs $750.

The facilities department must replace the letters whenever they are stolen, said Dick Pettis, the trade supervisor and manager of facilities maintenance.

“I’ve worked at Whitworth for over 18 years, and the most vandalism we get is on our letters,” Pettis said.

He said some people who have stolen letters have been caught before.

“Security found people just walking with the letters,” Pettis said.

People have also posted pictures on Facebook of themselves holding the letters, Christensen said.

“It seems like there’s some kind of status with stealing the letters,” she said.

In April 2011, a car crashed into the Whitworth sign. Junior Krisula Steiger  remembers the accident.

“The car crash took half the sign out. There were a few letters on the ground, and people started taking those,” Steiger said.

Steiger said that the sign remained in disrepair and people began to take the letters left on the intact half of the sign. She said that people probably wouldn’t have started stealing the letters if the sign had been fixed earlier.

“The crash happened on Good Friday, and they fixed it over the summer,” she said.

The letters on the sign were made of solid brass at the time. Now they are made of a more slender metal, and they are backlit by LED lights.

Christensen said she thinks the format should be changed in order to deter people from taking the letters.

“It’s pretty common sense. If a door gets broken into, you lock it,” Christensen said.

Changing the format of the sign in order to drive down the cost of replacing letters would cost $20,000. Facilities services is considering reverting to the old solid letters and using ground lights to illuminate them. Possible alternative designs include cut-out steel letters and letters engraved in concrete.

“The problem with those kind of letters is that they’re not brass; they’re not traditional,” Pettis said.

Pettis said that vandals need to realize the significance of the expense of their offense.

The “H” and the “T” have not been replaced yet. Instead, the old, solid-metal letters have been temporarily refastened.  It would take a total of $2,054 to buy and refasten both letters. The replacement of the “Founded in 1890” sign after it was vandalized cost $1,890, and it cost $2,934 to replace a “1” and a “0” on that sign.

“It doesn’t make a statement about Whitworth students. It’s just students making bad choices,” Christensen said. “The main concern is that the letters are obviously expensive.”

There are currently no suspects. There is an offered reward of $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest.

Contact Molly Daniels at

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