No Charges for Channels Graffiti

Hannah Long, News Editor •


Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Bristol Herald Courier

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will not be pressing charges against the five Emory & Henry students who vandalized rocks at the Channels, according to the Bristol Herald Courier. The decision comes after the students returned to the Channels to remove the graffiti, hiking to the area at least five times.

One of the students, junior Jada Penn, said, “It didn’t occur to us that it was wrong because we didn’t spray paint anything bad.” She also said, “We didn’t know it was nationally owned.”

The Channels is a natural area preserve at the top of Middle Knob on Clinch Mountain in Lebanon, Virginia. The Channels itself consists of a labyrinth of canyons and tunnels in sandstone rock.

Penn, as well as the other students, sophomore Kara Stafford, sophomore Peyton Williams, sophomore Sydney McKinney, and junior Taylor Blevins, are members of the E&H women’s basketball team. Two days before this semester began, Penn said, the students spray-painted their initials and jersey numbers on the Channels cliff face and posted images of the graffiti on Snapchat. Soon after, according to the Bristol Herald Courier, a pair of hikers reported the graffiti and the DCR began
to investigate the matter.

E&H spokesman Brent Treash said that “DCR had contacted us about an incident at the Channels so automatically we just started cooperating right away and giving them access to people they wanted to question and so forth. So really what we’ve done in situations like this is we tend to let the outside agency be the lead investigator.” He also explained, “We have a lot of limitations here . . . we have to protect student privacy, so things like your student conduct . . . once those are written down and part of your written record here, we’re actually not able to comment on any of that.”

Head Women’s Basketball Coach and Interim Director of Athletics Anne Crutchfield had no comment on the story.

In her comment to the Whitetopper on October 23, she stated that “At this point in time, I must respectfully decline to comment on any matter involving students per campus policy.”

The Channels is home to a variety of rare plant life, and DCR spokeswoman Shannon Johnson told the Bristol Herald Courier she was worried “these resources could be negatively impacted by graffi ti, however, if cleanup is done correctly as directed by DCR, there will be minimal impact to the natural communities.”

The Bristol Herald Courier reported that DCR gave the students 30 days to remove the graffiti and avoid criminal charges.

The students completed the clean-up to the DCR’s satisfaction within this period, hiking the six miles to the Channels more than five times.

Penn said they used water and paid out of pocket to purchase “environmentally friendly cleaning supplies” to prevent chemicals from bleaching the rock and causing environmental damage to the location.

According to Brent Treash, Emory & Henry officials were not able to comment on any internal responses to the incident, but Treash said “people do need to know we’re taking this seriously,” and that after the outside investigation was completed by “the proper regulatory agencies…then we’ll handle any kind of student policy we have with our dean of students’ office.”

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