A TikTok trend may be to blame for an uptick of vandalism in residence halls after students returned to campus this fall.
IU residents have stolen or damaged ceiling tiles, door numbers, bathroom markers and exit signs across several on-campus residence centers in recent weeks, IU Director of Residential Life Sara Ivey Lucas said.
These reports began just after a popular social media trend began circulating around TikTok and Twitter where students steal property from their schools, then announce it as a “devious lick.” She said she feels the viral internet challenge could be responsible, as schools across the nation have suffered serious damages in the last month.
“I do not believe that our students are immune to TikTok challenges and ‘devious licks,’” Ivey Lucas said. “I think that also in some ways it becomes an easy scapegoat.”
Ivey Lucas said these damages have caused unforeseen high costs for the university. Costs for broken exit signs have totaled nearly $20,000 across multiple residence halls, she said, because each exit sign costs about $400 to repair, including equipment and maintenance expenses.
“It’s not normal wear and tear,” Ivey Lucas said. “In the first two months that we’ve been back this semester, we have had over 50 exit signs either completely removed and or at least partially damaged.”
Ivey Lucas said this number is comparatively shocking, considering IU saw around 50 exit signs damaged in total between the 2016 and 2020 academic years. She said she’s never seen vandalism to this year’s extent in her tenure at IU.
Ivey Lucas said she has a few theories as to why there’s been a stark increase in vandalism. She said she thinks the time students spent stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic led to students developing pent-up energy.
If the students involved are not identified by a certain date, Ivey Lucas said Residence Programs Services will evenly distribute fines to all residents living in either the hall or the specific floor affected.
Ivey Lucas said RPS is approaching the situation proactively by informing students of potential charges from vandalism now, as opposed to later in the semester. She said some floors this year have already exceeded $3,000 to $4,000 worth of damages.
Irene Pollard, IU freshman and Read Center resident, said she believes the TikTok trend is 100% responsible for the vandalism on her floor.
A few weeks ago, Pollard said guests on her floor ripped a sign off of the wall, tearing off the drywall to expose the cement underneath was visible.
After the incident, Pollard said her RA called a floor meeting informing residents they could face legal and financial repercussions if they were involved in a vandalism incident.
RPS also sent an email to those living in residence halls Oct. 4 warning they will begin to charge residents for their repairs if vandalism continues.
IU would involve the Office of Student Conduct, or even the IU Police Department if necessary, depending on the extent of damages and the student’s disciplinary background.
Pollard said she and many other students don’t want to deal with extra fees. She urged students to stop with the trend.
“For you just to take some little thing, that costs money,” Pollard said. “How stupid do you have to be?”