The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Gator Take: I’m tired of seeing campus graffiti—why is it still here?

It only took one tagged bronze statue to make me realize the bigger picture: How much graffiti is really at SFSU?

While walking to my classes every day, I often look around the San Francisco State University campus and notice building walls, bathrooms and art statues tagged with various forms of graffiti. Reminiscent of Gotham City, the SFSU campus is plagued with graffiti that tarnishes the beauty of our campus and I think to myself, who’s going to do something about this? 

Though some graffiti represents the artistic reflection of our campus’ diverse community, some of it can be hateful and derogatory. Sure, while I believe art can be a productive outlet to express a person’s creativity, vision and/or message, most of the graffiti found on and around the SFSU campus is vandalism.

Though graffiti’s origins have evolved over time – spanning from vandalism to many forms of styles and methods – San Francisco is also known for its street art. Beautiful art murals that have been commissioned by the city adorn entire building walls, making the Mission District a major tourist destination in the city. The SFSU campus is a far reach from a tourist attraction. This type of artistic expression is done with purpose and impact versus the vandalism that disrespects the spaces it invades. 

Art via graffiti is meant to inspire and is done with purpose — and at the same time— respects the space it populates. Graffiti at SFSU defaces and diminishes the shared campus spaces, reeks of disrespect and can sometimes be connected to hate speech. 

One example of vandalism at SFSU was in October 2023, when antisemitic graffiti was found on campus at the top of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. While not all graffiti adorning the building’s rooftop is antisemitic, I find the graffiti the spans the top of the student center visually unappealing, distasteful and it should be removed. What’s even more disappointing is that our campus operations team doesn’t do anything about it. If the facilities team can act swiftly to remove hateful speech within some graffiti, why can’t they clean up the rest of the campus?

Students at SFSU pay thousands of dollars in tuition, part of which is set aside for campus maintenance.. It’s upsetting to see so much graffiti throughout the SFSU environment and so little done to address it.. What makes an already hard-to-swallow pill even harder, in September 2023, the CSU Board of Trustees voted and approved a multi-year tuition increase which will begin this fall semester. 

Years of graffiti take up a large portion of the Cesar Chavez Student Center rooftop on Feb. 28, 2024. (Zac Zavala / Golden Gate Xpress) (Zac Zavala)

Acts of anti-semitism vandalism on campus like the incident above are generally cleaned up promptly by the campus facilities department. But most other graffiti remains untouched.

Despite the efforts of over 200 hard-working facilities services employees at SFSU, the vandalism on the main campus is unfortunately still very apparent and has yet to deal with the existing graffiti around the campus. It almost seems like we’ve accepted our fate, turned a blind eye and just dealt with it.

The SFSU Facilities Department takes great pride in its role of upkeeping the university’s buildings and grounds, and personally, I believe they excel at their job. Yet since returning to campus after the COVID-19 pandemic, I and thousands of other students must pass by a vandalized — “tagged” — bronze statue behind the Humanities building every day on our way to class.

In the 2023 crime log that was obtained from the University’s Police Department, there were 92 vandalism incidents on campus and 16 reported incidents of graffiti have been reported thus far in 2024 via the campus crime log

SFSU is known for its progressive student community and its faculty — not for contributing to the San Francisco “doom loop” narrative fabricated in the national media.  Any images of a graffiti-covered campus contribute to the world’s perception of San Francisco. As a leading educational institution, SFSU should strive to hold itself to a higher standard for its students, its employees and its legacy. 

At the end of the day, by giving SFSU students a clean place to learn, the campus needs to take a better course of action over the harsh conditions to battle campus graffiti. By ensuring the facilities team is immediately aware of the vandalism would be an easy fix and would prompt them to remove all vandalism. It’s a bit distracting when common areas, art statues, buildings’ interiors and exteriors, and other parts of the university are infected with unsightly graffiti. What is our campus leadership doing about the situation? Do we accept the vandalism culture and feed into the flywheel of continued graffiti without consequences? Campus leadership needs to step in and take responsibility to ensure the campus is not only safe, but clean. 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Zac Zavala
Zac Zavala, Staff Reporter
Zac Zavala (he/him) is a Bay Area resident who transferred from The Los Angeles Film School as a creative producing major. Originally from Southern California, Zac switched to journalism with a minor in history once he landed at SF State. Zac has vast experience working in the entertainment industry in film and television. Zac is also part of the production team for the Academy Awards and a former Walt Disney Imagineer. Zac is striving to be a groundbreaking producer and multimedia journalist. In his free time, Zac travels to different parts of the world for inspiration and is a runner.

Comments (0)

All Golden Gate Xpress Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *