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Who took a pee on the political scientists?

True crime — One dark night in December unknown perpetrators committed acts of vandalism on the students' association Jacques D. They wrote 'best regards, Economics ♥ ' in big red capital letters on the toilet wall. A few weeks beforehand two people had urinated through a window into a party in the room at the Department of Political Science. Who is behind the crime? The University Post looks into the case.

It is the night of Saturday 1st December 2018. The time is 4.14 am and two political science students leave the CSS campus after a successful Christmas party. Tired and tipsy, they roll out of Jacques D and head out towards the Nørrebro-district’s shawarma quarter. But they overlook something very important. Something which they will later come to regret.

The two students forgot to lock the door to the students’ association. In the period between 4.11 am and 10.05 am unknown perpetrators vandalised the room with a can of red spray paint. A large quote on the wall ‘welcome to the top of society’ has been replaced by ‘welcome to the piss of society’. An oversized gold-coloured lady outline has been given a new face. And on the newly renovated toilets the perpetrators have apparently revealed their identity. ‘best regards, Economics ♥’.

This is the starting point for a case that has many possible motives and perpetrators. Would the economics students really want to destroy their fellow students’ rooms? Or have other people framed the defenceless economics students in the hope of igniting a smouldering conflict between the two study programmes? The University Post has traced the criminals’ footsteps.

Case reconstructed

Friday, 30th November 2018 and three different parties are being held at the Faculty of Social Sciences. The largest concentration of possible malicious vandals are to be found in the Kommunen The economics students’ Polit Fredagsbar is holding a farewell party for the Council of Economic Advisers, where you can drink yourself up to chairman status. It is open to all UCPH students. In Jacques D, a bunch of political science students are holding their Christmas party. And there is, in fact, also a party in Katedralen, which is the sociology and anthropology students’ lair.

The economics students’ group Polit Fredagsbar points out that the vandalism was carried out after their party closed at 02.45 am. So does Mads Palmelund, chairman of the association Kommunen, that rents out the big party room to associations on the inner city campus. The perpetrators would in this way have had to stay at another location for approximately 90 minutes before they carried out their raid.

The chairman of Jacques D, Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk, points the University Post in the direction of the key clues in the case:

“I am also a volunteer in  Pedalarmen and when I arrived on Tuesday, ‘economics’ was written on the floor in red paint. We had some red spray paint, which had suddenly disappeared, and an alarm clock on one of the shelves was completely sprayed over. It was as if they had tested it there, written ‘economics’ on the floor, and then gone over to Jacques D.”

The ‘weapon’ seems to have been found, and the perpetrators appear to have had several targets in mind. But how did they get in to the Pedalarmen in the first place? Everything indicates, according to the chairman from Jacques D, that they entered via the Katedralen, where the sociologists and anthropologists hang out. Is it them that are behind it all?

“F…… political scientists”

The clues point in many directions. But it quickly turns out that the incident is just one among several others. Back in April 2018, the wall outside Jacques D. was tagged. This was also during an economics party, and the selected motif also referred back to economics. The economics students’ Polit Fredagsbar regretted it on their Facebook:

The students’ association Jacques D has not only been plagued by vandalism. According to the chairman of Jacques D, non-political-science students often turn up showing “brash behaviour” at small private parties. Among them have been students of economics, but also people from other study programmes. Things once got out of hand:

“Sometimes they have been asked to leave the party by the event organiser. And one evening, this resulted in the same people, after repeatedly being asked to leave, standing and urinating in through one of the windows,” says Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk.

This was the last straw. It is really disgusting to urinate in through windows. Who is to clean up after this? We have to do it.
Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk, Chairman of Jacques D

Someone has urinated on the political scientists, but who? An eyewitness was unable to identify them, but says:

“I was walking along through the courtyard at CSS at approximately three in the morning, and was starting to make my way home from the Christmas party with my class, when I see two boys stand and pee through one of the rear windows at Jacques D. I yelled something like “what the hell are you doing”, after which they quickly hurried away. In passing they muttered something like “f…… political science students,” says Caroline Thorsen who was at the party on 17th November.

“We took this as the last straw. It is really disgusting to urinate in through the windows. Who is to clean up after this? We have to do it. This is when we started talking about how we could minimise the problem,” says chairman Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk. Unfortunately it is not here.

Welcome to the piss of society

One of the big questions which arises during the course of the vandalism investigation is the choice of motif. Why have the perpetrators chosen to paint over the bombastic Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard quote ‘welcome to the top of society’?

“It will probably be striking to many political science students, that the quote ‘welcome to the top of society’ has been deleted and replaced with ‘welcome to the piss of society’. This quote defines, in a way, how we see ourselves as political science students, whether this is with an ironic distance or not,” says Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk. He states that in the association they spend a long time selecting and painting the numerous quotes from teachers, politicians and theorists that adorn the walls of the location.

Did the perpetrators deliberately disfigure this quote because of its symbolic value? Or is it linked to the story from two weeks prior, where urine was also a key element?

If you go to the archives, you can also see the quotation mentioned in the book ‘Political Science 1965-2015’, where the former member of the Board of Studies, Rikke Regitze Nøhr Nielsen, writes:

“The quote reflects the view of the study programme and the students which the media have, and regularly write about […]. In fact, the quote reflects a good deal of self-irony. Though it will please some political science students to be reminded of the prospect of being the top of society, and that they are in an ‘incubator of power’.”

Political scientists have been hit hard in their own self-perception. And it hurts. But who might be interested in doing this?

‘Regards, Economics ♥’

The evidence seems to point towar economics students, as the perpetrators have carefully covered about one square metre of the toilet wall with the sentence ‘Regards, Economics ♥’. But in their own camp they don’t believe that economics students are behind the well-crafted defilement of the wall.

“We have no evidence that the vandals are actually from Economics. It may well be harassment from somewhere else”.

The chairmanship of Polit Fredagsbar writes to the University Post.

This view is shared by the chairman of Kommunen Mads Palmelund:

“I doubt that someone from Economics has done it. Apart from the fact that the vandalism is so silly that I doubt that any university student has done it, it makes no sense to write ‘regards Economics’, as it is like slapping your own face to be associated with these shenanigans,” says the chairman, who is at the Department of Economics on a daily basis. He says he cannot understand why any of his fellow students would be behind the vandalism.

“Quite the opposite, some people may find it to be great to write that it’s from Economics, as this harms their reputation,” says economics student Mads Palmelund.

I hope these idiots are not students of economics. Every sensible person considers this a real mess. But we do not know whether it is our students.
Head of Department, Christian Schultz

The head of department at the Department of Economics says that they have talked with Polit Fredagsbar on the matter, but that you cannot conclude that it is an economics student who is behind this. Christian Schultz compares it to the fact that he himself had his car vandalised on the CSS campus. He assumed at first that it was a group of hooligans that was behind it. But later he found out that it was just an unhinged lady who walked around destroying side-view mirrors on the vehicles in the area.

“I hope these idiots are not students of economics. Every sensible person considers this a real mess. But we do not know whether it is our students.

There have been several vandalism incidents at CSS that appear to have involved a student of economics. Is there a problem here?

“I’m thinking that it is a big problem, if things are destroyed in connection with parties, and I know that the economics students, who are responsible for the Friday bar, are completely agreed on this. But we do not know whether it is an economics student that is responsible for these incidents.”

An inherited conflict?

In Jacques D they are also wary of painting a picture of the economics programme as an army of live Mannekin Pis– models.

“It is tempting to just say that it is Economics behind it, when it is written on both the toilet wall and the floor of the Pedalarmen. But we don’t actually know who has done it. So it would not be fair to the many nice economics students that we encounter on a daily basis. These students, we know, would never do something like that,” says Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk.

It shows a lack of respect for the volunteer work that is behind the upkeep of our student association

Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk, Chairman of Jacques D

But who else would do it? Has a bitter anthropologist exploited the opportunity to destroy the economists’ stellar reputation? The spray can, after all, is from the Pedalarmen, and the perpetrators have probably been given access to it via the Katedralen.

The chairman of Jacques D says they have also tried to play detective in the Board. But they would rather focus on the fact that it hurts a voluntary association when it is exposed to vandalism, says Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk.

“It shows a lack of respect for the volunteer work that is behind the upkeep of our student association. We spend a lot of time choosing the quotes, repainting them, and maintaining them. We are therefore very disappointed, of course, when the work is destroyed. We’d rather spend our time creating new, cool things than cleaning up after vandalism,” he says.

One possibility is that the motive for the vandalism is to be found in a long-term dispute between the two study programmes. Many programmes hold mutual prejudices against each other. And the two large degrees programmes, Political Science and Economics, have for many years fought for the spot as the foremost subject at the Faculty of Social Sciences. But is there bad blood between them?

Not according to Polits Fredagsbar, which states that: “We are naturally very sorry to see the good name of Economics being used in this damaging way. We see no bad blood between Political Science and Economics, although incidents like this create distance between our two study programmes.”

The chairman of Jacques D does not recognise the idea of a major conflict between the two departments either. Maybe a few friendly jibes, nothing more.

A hyper-masculine environment?

If there are no deep-seated conflicts in play, then what is behind the vandalism? Associate professor at the Department of Sociology Jakob Johan Demant may be able to answer. He does his research on alcohol culture among young people and says that you need to be careful about saying that the case is about a general dispute between the two fields of study:

“According to my analysis, this is not a lot about the relationship between the two different study programmes. It is also about this. But it’s more about someone behaving really badly, and that a culture has been established where it is okay to do so.”

To accept that someone gets so drunk, and crosses this line, and that nobody intervenes to stop it, is an indication that there is a tacit acceptance of it
Associate professor at the Department of Sociology, Jakob Johan Demant

The situation may signify a hypermasculine culture, according to Jakob Johan Demant:

“We know that there is a small group of young people who drink a lot and have a very low level of self-control. And from the literature on US colleges, we know that among some young men in particular, there is a hypermasculine culture, where alcohol is used to establish powerful representations of themselves. And the excess and degradation, which is part of drinking a lot, vandalising things, and actually urinating into a room with other people, is part of this basically very old-fashioned, masculine means of expression.”

The associate professor says that the young men create their own identity by carrying out these transgressive and degrading actions. The action of crossing out a quote on the wall is itself a kind of intoxication giving enjoyment.

Low-hanging fruits

“To accept that someone gets so drunk and crosses the line, and that nobody intervenes to stop it, is an indication that there is a tacit acceptance of it,” says Jakob Johan Demant.

It would therefore be like low-hanging fruit to change the alcohol culture and the hyper-masculine culture, which is evidently to be found among the students, the associate professor says.

How do you change a hypermasculine culture? Is this not difficult?

“You start by intervening where the hypermasculine culture is thriving. If these parties are creating the space for you to behave in this way, then maybe we should rethink how these parties take place, and how they are supporting this culture.”

This is really a safe place to go to a party, and it seems strange that there are these expressions of confrontational behaviour

Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk, Chairman of Jacques D

But neither Jacques D nor Polits Fredagsbar say that their party culture is unhealthy. They are therefore deploying other initiatives.

“We, in Polit Fredagsbar consider our party culture to be healthy. We never have problems at our parties, which is why we do not believe that there is a need for a major cultural change. The vandalism is simply the expression of one or more singular person(s) attitudes and our task is to prevent this happening in the future,” the chairmanship writes in a message to the University Post.

Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk from Jacques D says that he is frustrated with the latest incidents: “It really is a safe place to go to the party, and it seems strange that there are these expressions of confrontational behaviour.”

They have therefore agreed on specific initiatives such as locking the door down to Jacques D, and that guards from the kommunen parties are also to guard the same door.

Unanswered questions

It is still uncertain what happened on the night of Saturday 1st December. A number of questions are unanswered:

  • Why did the people write ‘regards Economics ♥’ in the toilet?
  • How did the perpetrators get into the Pedalarmen? And did they know in advance that there was spray paint down there?
  • Who could possibly have been conspiring against the economics students? What would they get out of it?

Until we find out what actually happened, the chairman of Jacques D is completely clear about it:

“People should not commit acts of vandalism. And they should accept that Jacques D is reserved for political science and social science students. You are basically not welcome to private parties, especially if you turn up with an attitude and a party culture that is different from the one that is like Jacques D”, says Kristian Egløkke Østerbæk.

Do you know who has been urinating on the political scientists, and painting over their quotes? Contact the University Post on uniavis@adm.ku.dk

Translated by Mike Young

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