Graffiti Flowers Bloom at Bryn Mawr College
Flowers of various hues were in bloom the last weekend of March — graffiti flowers, that is. A flower design appeared painted on the ground throughout Bryn Mawr’s campus, but as of yet no one is sure who painted them or why.
One of the first signs that something was amiss began in the Bryn Mawr Class of 2020 Facebook group page. Marit Eiler ’20 posted an inconspicuous message at 12:19 p.m. on March 25 asking, “Does anyone know what the deal is with the (flower?) stencil art in the Pem Arch area?”
Nine minutes later, the first respondent set the stage for the rumors that would follow. Alex Tucker ’20 said, “I heard an unconfirmed account that it’s some [Villa]nova Greek-life thing.” A Bryn Mawr junior seemed to confirm Villanova’s role over an hour later: “[It’s] apparently a nova sorority thing.”
Over the next two and a half hours the post accumulated about a dozen replies with individuals readily latching on to Villanova as the perpetrator. Some were angry about the presence of Villanova students on the campus while others simply wanted those responsible to be held accountable. Eiler commented “Here’s hoping [the Villanova sorority] have to pay for/do the removal.”
About three hours after Eiler’s post seemed to have died, Toby Makowski ’18 posted in the Class of 2020 Facebook group asking for witnesses who saw Villanova spray painting the flowers to come forth. “BMC campus safety is looking for eyewitness testimonies so that they can bill Villanova for literally defacing BMC property,” he said.
An unknown amount of time later Makowski edited the post with an update which said “so we def know it’s villanova’s sorority delta gamma! they legitimately reserved rhoads dining hall, but their vandalism have to be directly linked to them in order to make villanova pay for repairs. if you thought you saw something please message me or reply to the [Campus Safety] email! [sic]”
The email Makowski to which referred was an email alert sent by Bryn Mawr College Campus Safety at 5:52 p.m. that same day. Sparse in working, it read “We are aware of the graffiti and vandalism across campus and are conducting an investigation. If you have any information that may assist us in identifying the person(s) who committed this crime, please contact Campus Safety at 610–526–7911.” There was no mention of Villanova.
Yet Makowski’s post continued to accumulate comments until March 27. Links were posted to Instagram pictures from individuals in Villanova’s Delta Gamma sorority as proof that Delta Gamma was at Bryn Mawr March 25. Makowski even called the Villanova head of Greek Life.
The situation sparked intense ire among Bryn Mawr students. Molly Marion ’20 commented “I say we retaliate” and “I think we should retaliate with something that we can’t be arrested for.” One student voiced their dissent with the notion but two others said it was a “good idea” before Makowski stepped in to bring the focus back to finding eyewitnesses for the purpose of paying for the vandalism.
In an interview with Campus Safety, the Director of Operations at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Lil Burroughs confirmed that a Villanova sorority was on campus Saturday, March 25. “What we can confirm is that the students did rent space in Rhoads. I think that should be public knowledge,” Burroughs said. “Students have been coming here for years to celebrate their sororities… It was signed out, it was rented space, they went through Conferences and Events legitimately.”
In a later interview, however, Makowski admitted that there is no proof that Villanova is responsible for the flower graffiti. Instead he said, “it is a super suspicious coincidence that nova had their event at bmc that day and that one of their symbols is a rose [sic].” According to Delta Gamma’s official site DeltaGamma.org, the official symbol is the anchor for “hope.”
Some Bryn Mawr individuals told Makowski that they had friends at Villanvoa who could confirm the graffiti was done by Villanova, but refused to send screenshots for fear of being associated with the crime. Makowski also reached out to a member of Delta Gamma sorority. “i reached out to a member of the sorority,” he said. “And after she said ‘no that wasn’t us sorry can’t help you’ she blocked me [sic].”
According to Makowski, Villanova has been reluctant to offer information, which only makes them seem more suspicious. “Now we can’t even fully confront [Villanova] because i had a meeting with [Campus Safety] and they basically said ‘nova sent us a cease and desist notice, please stop “harassing” nova people about the incident,’” he said.
Not everyone is as convinced the graffiti was Villanova, however. About an hour after the original post was made Abbygail Brewster ’18 said in a reply “the campus was tagged before 6:50 [a.m. March 25] because I had tennis and saw it then. So it might not have been the all [sic] the specific people in Rhoads.”
Caitlin Haskett ’20 also claimed the graffiti was done before the Villanova Sorority’s arrival to campus — “The campus was tagged at some point last night. I saw one of the flowers at like 2:30 a.m.” — as did Diana Sandoval ’20. Campus Safety’s report correlates with these observations, as they received two reports from Bryn Mawr students about the flower graffiti before Villanova arrived on campus.
The official report from Kim Callahan, the Associate Director for Investigations, and Burroughs of Campus Safety is that the graffiti incident is still an active investigation. But whereas Makowski suspects Villanova, Callahan said “at this point we don’t have any information. At this point there’s no evidence to prove who did it, whether it was a student on campus or off campus.”
Burroughs called on Bryn Mawr’s student body to come forward with any information. “I’m very frustrated with our students,” she said. “We know someone on our campus saw something and they’re not telling us. Same thing with the banners that were stolen during WTF week. I’m frustrated that we don’t have students coming forward to help our investigation find both the banners and the cause of the graffiti.”
As a final thought Burroughs added, “If the students can help us with some kind of confidential reporting I’m open because I know that students are afraid [of potential consequences].”
Photos by Bryn Mawr students Hannah Chinn and Anna Swartzentrube, respectively