The recent removal of several Ts from significantly visible campus signs has instigated a discussion on the longtime tradition of removing Ts from around campus.
Historically, the last time the northern T was taken from Tech Tower was in May 2001. Three students, two of whom were found guilty of numerous conduct code violations by the Undergraduate Judiciary Cabinet and subsequently suspended, were responsible for the theft. Also in 2001, a larger group of students, angry at being displaced from Caldwell Residence Hall because of renovations, the self-named “Caldwell Liberation Army,” stole 32 Ts from numerous signs around campus.
Because stealing the Tech Tower Ts comes with possible criminal charges and definite expulsion, students over years have taken to removing smaller Ts around campus in retaliation to this punishment.
However, the significant amount of time and energy that is devoted to replacing the Ts is anything but small.
Over the past several years, Housing has spent a significant amount of money annually to replace missing Ts. These costs often include the cost of renting and using cranes, lifts and other tools in order to reach spots that are mounted on the upper floors of buildings.
“The actual cost of the material is around $5000 a year,” said Francis Gillis, Senior Director of Housing and Facilities Management.
The administration has discouraged the theft of the Tech Tower T in the past because of both danger to the students and possible legal liability, and is now discouraging stealing any and all Ts because of the loss of aesthetic value and the overall costs.
Significant steps have also been taken to reduce the costs of replacing Ts in and around campus. These recent campus improvements have affected not only the costs associated with replacing the Ts, but also the number of Ts stolen as well.
The amount of missing Ts has increased since the installation of new signage on campus in 2006. Because the newer signs are adorned with vinyl Ts that are flush to the signs themselves, it is significantly more simple to remove the Ts.
“We incorporate the GT logo in the plaques as much as we can, so we avoid having the Ts taken off,” Gillis said. “Unfortunately, the Ts are easy to get at, because they’re down on the ground. They can be peeled off easily type of lettering: they are cheaper to replace.”
However, the cost of replacing the Ts and the difficulty associated with it is significantly reduced because the sizes and compositions of each T are different.
Historically, the removal of the Ts has received a mixed response from student, faculty and alumni regarding the entire tradition of removing the Ts themselves, with both positive and negative feedback from all sides.
“I actually like seeing the removal of the Ts around campus,” said first-year BME major Lucy Tucker. “To me, stealing the Ts is an activity unique to Tech, but I can definitely see how quickly Tech pride can turn into vandalism.”
Not everyone views the removal of the Ts as a positive tradition. Many students, faculty and members of the staff regard the costs of such activities, both monetary and otherwise, as quite high.
“It causes us issues because Ts diverting our attention from real needs to what we classify as vandalism,” Gillis said. “It detracts from the university’s appearance to parents and visitors when [it] is done.”
The missing Ts will continue to be a source of discussion for students, faculty and alumni alike over the coming weeks.