Guerry Hall vandalism affects large part of auditorium

The stage in Guerry Auditorium. Photo courtesy of Chief of Police Marie Ferguson.

By Anna Mann

According to Sewanee Police Chief Marie Ferguson, an act of vandalism took place at Guerry Auditorium either the night of April 27 or early in the morning of April 28. Ferguson explained that the Sewanee Police Department (SPD) has continued to receive and look into information regarding the crime. In an email sent to the entire campus, the SPD stated that there is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the criminal.

An email from the SPD to the student body stated that the act of “vandalism included, but was not limited to: three fire extinguishers were discharged over a large portion of the auditorium; chairs were found broken in the middle aisle of the auditorium; spray paint was used to vandalize the walls and several items upstairs; the flag pole holding the United States flag was broken and found lying among the auditorium seats; broken furniture was located in the upstairs storage/tool area; and the exit sign over one of the doorways was broken.”

After receiving news of the crime from music professor Peter Povey on the morning of April 28, Chair of the Music Department Stephen Miller immediately headed to Guerry Hall.

“My first reaction was horror,” stated Miller. “I was horrified that anybody could wreak such havoc, and on equipment and in a space that have allowed for such beautiful, moving performances and presentations.”

He named a few of the affected groups as Sewanee’s acapella groups, Live Music Sound Nation, the offices working working to practice Baccalaureate and Commencement exercises, and those planning for the Sewanee Summer Music Festival.

Though Ferguson said that acts of vandalism have occured on the campus before, Miller explained that he has never seen a direct parallel. He stated that he looked back into University records but was only able to find a few examples, at most, of such damage.

When asked whether the vandalist would have needed keys to enter the auditorium, Miller explained that “Generally speaking, access to the auditorium requires keys. But I know of a couple doors in that are hard to close and may be left ajar, so if a criminal wanted in, forced entry may not have been necessary. Also, it is possible that one of the front doors off the lobby was left unlocked.”

Harriet Brennan (C’20), treasurer and viola player for the Sewanee Chamber Music Society, described her initial reactions to some pictures of the damage by saying: “I felt terrible for the music department and for the other students who love this space as much as I do. For students who use Guerry Auditorium multiple times a week it becomes an important part of your life. I can’t imagine who would want to purposely damage Guerry Auditorium, and hope this incident is resolved soon so the music department move forward.”

As to the next steps in the process, Ferguson reminded students that the investigation is currently underway. She encouraged anyone with information to reach out to SPD Investigator Jody Bray at 931.598.3123 or, contact Sewanee Police via LiveSafe, or by calling the SPD at 931.598.1111.