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Vandalism runs rampant in Jowers

Jowers Center
Sewell Park is for Texas State students and faculty and the school plans to enforce those rules more which will help with the recent vandalisms at Jowers.
Photo by: Jamie Dorsey | Staff Photographer

Texas State Jowers Center has experienced an increasing number of vandalisms throughout the past two academic years.

The building—located on the banks of the river at Sewell Park—had more than 20 accounts of vandalism since 2015, according to a report given to faculty senate. Four of the total incidents happened from January-April 2017.

The most recent incident occurred on the weekend of March 31. Ting Liu, associate professor, reported a lab room was broken into and tampered with. Lui found boxes, ripped fabric and supplies strewn across the floor. Nothing was determined missing.

Marcus Hendry, facilities coordinator, began noticing incidents of vandalism in 2015. He said these occurrences typically correlate with the spring and summer seasons and usually take place during weekends when Sewell Park is populated with community members.

Otto Glenewinkel, UPD officer, was a respondent for one of the reported cases. He said recent incidents of vandalism in Jowers have not been reported to UPD.

“From what I remember, the majority of the incidents occurred while school was out, not necessarily Texas State, but San Marcos ISD,” Glenewinkel said. “That’s when we would notice a big uptake in acts of criminal mischief inside the building.”

Glenewinkel said UPD had increased patrol in Sewell Park and the Jowers area in previous years after receiving reports, but without the continuance of these reports, they cannot justify taking it further.

Additionally, Jowers is a shared-use facility between the Department of Health and Human Performance, the athletics department, campus recreation and club sports. With various events in the center, there is access from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and nearly every weekend, Hendry said.

The instances of vandalism range from breaking into vending machines, breaking signs and leaving graffiti to emptying out full fire extinguishers in the gyms. The university has replaced at least 10 extinguishers, Hendry said.

“It’s predominantly nuisance mischief stuff. The biggest thing that (vandals) love to do is take out the fire extinguishers and spray them all over the place,” Hendry said. “It leaves a residue, as it has that fire retardant stuff that gets in everything.”

Hendry said the custodial staff works hard to remove the extinguisher’s residue from the gaps in the gym floor, and it typically causes damage.

Hendry, among other faculty under HHP, has requested the addition of working security cameras to all seven entrances of the building. This would require an estimated investment of $5,000 to $7,000, according to information provided by Hendry. The request was never fulfilled.

The department then offered to contribute funds toward the installment out of its own funding but was later denied. At the April 5 Faculty Senate meeting, Hendry attended with intent to file another request for cameras but again was denied.

“I do not have a request for cameras from Jowers,” said Joanne Smith, vice president of student affairs. “The only reason I would have it is if it was approved through the line.”

Smith said the request would have to be approved by the department chair of HHP and the provost before she could sign off on it.

Gene Bourgeois, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said there will be no addition of security cameras to Jowers, but the university will consider increasing police patrol.

Bourgeois spoke with Smith and Eric Algoe, vice president of finance and support services, before attending the meeting to determine if the school’s new campus master plan intended to add security cameras but was told it would not be included.

When the incidents first began, Hendry notified UPD, who took reports and photographed the scenes. As the vandalism continued for over two years, Hendry and other faculty members in Jowers stopped reporting incidents to UPD and began to patrol the gyms over weekends, often kicking out local high schoolers.

The reports conducted by UPD noted footprints left in fire extinguisher residue and concluded the culprits were between 11 and 13 years of age. The police department does not have any physical evidence to press charges against specific individuals.