Thieves blind Gandhi, vaporize Osprey


Vandalism vexes UNF staff in courtyards and dormitories

The world of UNF is no longer one of clarity or insight for Gandhi, as vandals have not only stolen the spectacles off his statue, but also plagued a plaque outside the Osprey Fountains.

The thievery marks the end of a two-year “Pax Gandhia,” as the the specs were stolen once before in 2007, said Dr. Mauricio Gonzalez, vice president of student and international affairs at UNF.

Gandhi’s specs were noticed to be missing Nov. 25, and the last time any officers had seen them was Nov 10, which leaves a 15 day window in which the glasses were stolen, according to the police report. UPD searched the surrounding area, but for lack of evidence and leads, they suspended the investigation. In the 2007 theft, the glasses were valued between $100 and $299, said the same report.

Though the report attributes a “lack of evidence and investigative leads” to the suspension of this year’s case, there is a security camera in Gandhi’s courtyard.

The camera was installed, but it’s positioned at an angle such that it didn’t catch the crime, Gonzalez said. He will work with UPD to get the camera adjusted if an adjustment is possible, he said.

“[Cameras] are more to protect the students than to stop [vandalism],” said Mark Richardson, assistant chief of UPD. “I don’t think any of the cameras that we have would have prevented that, anyway.”

Although the police report states that the first stolen spectacles were recovered, Oupa Seane, director of the Intercultural Center for PEACE, said that is false. The original glasses were never recovered, he said.

Shortly after the first theft in 2007, Elkin’s Construction — the company responsible for the pedestal on which Gandhi stands and much of the recent construction on campus — fabricated a pair of temporary replacement glasses, but they were made of a material that could not be correctly welded to the statue, so they were glued to the statue with epoxy instead, Seane said.

Gandhi’s sculptress crafted him in India, and he was shipped to UNF in 2006. The Gandhi Memorial Society of Jacksonville, which donated the $60,000 for the statue and base, also replaced the glasses when they were stolen in 2007, said Gandhi Memorial Society of Jacksonville chairman Ramesh Vashi. The artist actually fabricated a new pair and sent them for free, he said.

Gandhi’s glued-on temp glasses were replaced in 2007 with the help of this society. Seane was able to get a replacement from the original sculptress in India, he said. She crafted a second pair in India and shipped them to UNF, Seane said.

These specialized replacement glasses rested on Gandhi’s ears for nearly two years before the second, more recent theft left Gandhi struggling to see again.

Seane is working with the Gandhi Memorial Society to get a third replacement, but the effort is taxing, he said.

“If the person [responsible for the vandalism] knew how much work went into this, I don’t think it would have happened,” he said. “The statue was brought to inspire students and teach the ideals of Gandhi, which have nothing to do with stealing.”

Osprey Fountains plaque
Though such vandalism is neither unheard of nor unexpected on a college campus, this kind of vandalism is not common, Richardson said.

Vandals have also removed pieces of a brick sign for the Fountains three times in the last month, and it is currently broken, said Kristin Smith, associate director of Residence Life.

The plaque features the word “Fountains” and an osprey logo.

Pranksters pilfered the osprey logo twice, and it was recovered both times, Smith said. After the first incident, a resident assistant, who found the osprey in the possession of a nonresident, recovered it, and police recovered the osprey in the bushes the second time it was stolen, she said.

Letter-hating larcenists removed half of an “i” from the word “Fountains,” and police recovered it in the bushes as well, Smith said.

The Osprey is valued at about $300, but since it has been recovered, UNF has also incurred reinstallation costs, Smith said.

Housing Operations currently has the itinerant “i” in question and plans to reattatch it to the brickwork during the winter break, Smith said.