FOCUS signs vandalized

FOCUS decided not to press charges against those responsible for the damage. Photo by Rylee Russell | Mercury Staff.

Comets vandalized a Christian organization’s recruitment signs, sparking debate online.

On March 8, the Instagram meme account @utdbruhmoments featured a slideshow of images depicting a series of vandalized signs from a UTD student organization called the Fellowship of Christian University Students, also known as FOCUS. The post sparked a slew of heated religious debates between students in the comment section, and according to Peter Young, assistant director of FOCUS, this is not the first time people have tampered with the organization’s advertisements.

Junior chemistry major Paul Micus and political science alumnus Peter Young said that FOCUS leadership implemented a new initiative called the Blitz Team this semester. The team’s primary role is updating FOCUS ads around campus every Friday, including the signs that were set up near McDermott Library prior to spring break and eventually vandalized.

Young said that prior to the vandalism posted on Instagram, the signs had been stolen two separate times. Eventually, the sign thefts turned into students altering the signs from questions posed by FOCUS like, “Does Jesus care about women?” to simply reading “Does Jesus women?” The combination of theft and vandalism resulted in the involvement of UTDPD.

“Campus police got involved, and there were a number of people who got caught in the act of stealing these signs,” Young said.

However, FOCUS decided not to press charges.

Several FOCUS signs were altered in an attempt to change their original meaning. Photo by Rylee Russell | Mercury Staff.

“We want what’s best for the university and for the students that come here,” Young said.

As soon as the images were posted on @utdbruhmoments, the signs quickly became a topic of debate between the account’s followers. Comments ranged from citing the vandalization as a denial of religious freedom to others arguing that changing the signs was a harmless joke.

ATEC alumnus Nicholas Provenghi shared his own thoughts on the long thread of commenters under the Instagram post.

“This isn’t a dig against Christianity, it’s a dig against an organization that uses evangelical tactics to harass members of the UTD student body,” Provenghi said. “They deserve all the vandalism and criticism that comes their way.”

Photo by Rylee Russell | Mercury Staff

Young said that the group’s intent with the signs was to start a conversation on campus and create a space to talk about their beliefs and religious convictions. Young stated that the initial questions posed on the signs were meant to draw a reaction from the student body.

“We really wanted to hit home with hot topics like anxiety and depression and even politics,” Young said.

Following the vandalism, Micus talked about new opportunities to communicate with fellow students using the signs. At the suggestion of a non-religious classmate, the next rounds of signs from FOCUS were answers to the questions that were initially vandalized. The new signs read similarly to the signs before but also contained an answer. “Does Jesus care about women? Yes.”

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