Graffitist expelled from UNCA ***UPDATE***

A UNC Asheville student caught in an Asheville Police Department graffiti investigation has been expelled from that school, police say.

An e-mail from the Asheville Police Department confirms that Austin Taylor Haltiwanger, 19,  and John Baxter Harrill, 20, were both expelled.

On Jan. 7, a spokesperson from UNCA told Xpress that Haltiwanger was no longer enrolled at the school, but would not confirm the expulsion, citing federal regulations regarding student records.

But the e-mail, sent by APD Captain Tim Splain to newly appointed Asheville City Council member Kelly Miller and Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson, confirms that the department received word from the campus’ Office of Student Affairs that the two were being expelled.

The e-mail refers to Haltiwanger and Harrill as “two of our most prolific graffiti vandals.”

Miller, executive vice president of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, has recently called for the expulsion of students at local schools caught vandalizing property as part of a larger crackdown on graffiti.

The e-mail from the APD to Miller is below.

Brian Postelle, staff writer

***UPDATE: UNCA Dean of Students Jacquelyn McHargue has informed Xpress that Harrill was not a UNCA student. She also confirmed that Haltiwanger was no longer enrolled at the campus, but would not say whether he was actually expelled. That information, she said, is privileged by federal student privacy law.

McHargue said the information supplied to the APD about the expulsion did not originate in her office, nor was she aware of any formal communication from the Office of Student Affairs about Haltiwanger’s status.***


To: ‘Kelly Miller’

; William Hogan
> CC: Gary Jackson
> Sent: Thu Jan 08 09:34:23 2009
> Subject: RE: Check with
> On the afternoon of December 17, 2008 APD Criminal Investigations
> Supervisors received word from the UNCA Office of Student Affairs that
> Austin Taylor Haltiwanger, 19, of Asheville and John Baxter Harrill, 20,
> of Fairview were being expelled from UNCA.  These individuals are two of
> our most prolific graffiti vandals…Haltiwanger uses the tags of ETCHR
> and FEIZ…Harrill uses TRIDE, MOMS, POED, TIKE, and others.
> Capt. Tim Splain


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39 thoughts on “Graffitist expelled from UNCA ***UPDATE***

  1. Rob Close

    “Harrill uses TRIDE, MOMS, POED, TIKE, and others”…

    So he’s been tagging MOMS all over Asheville since he was 12-13 years old? I’ve seen those since I moved here in 2001 – I’d love to see how they proved what tags are his.

  2. Rob Close

    “She also confirmed that Haltiwanger was no longer enrolled at the campus, but would not say whether he was actually expelled. That information, she said, is privileged by federal student privacy law.”

    Ok, then how come “But the e-mail, sent by APD Captain Tim Splain to newly appointed Asheville City Council member Kelly Miller and Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson, confirms that the department received word from the campus’ Office of Student Affairs that the two were being expelled.”

    If this information is private – how come we’re reading it here?

  3. shadmarsh

    I wonder if they will also “expel” the person who violated his right to privacy?

  4. Reality Check

    Commit the crime .. pay the fine. The student deserved the punishment. It sets an excellent example. Accountability is a very good lesson for college students.

  5. Brian Postelle

    So far, no one at UNCA has been able to explain how the APD got its information. Bill Haggard, Vice Chancellor of UNCA’s Office of Student Affairs (the department credited in the APD e-mail), told me:

    “I really don’t know how that happened. I did not share that information.”

    And McHargue said:

    “I’m not fully sure who indicated that the information [in the e-mails] is correct.”

  6. Noah

    Graffiti is a terrible eyesore if it’s randomly used and not representative of art. But expulsion? A little severe I think. This is a kid remember. I think extended community service with a suspension would have been a better option.

  7. Reality Check

    Noah .. maybe your penalty for the 1st offense. Repeat offenses for the same crime deserve additional punishment.

  8. It’s not right in my opinion to expel the students from school before they are found guilty in court of the crimes. According to the linked article ( Haltiwanger was charged on the 6th of December by the APD. I really doubt he’s already been through the court system, found guilty and sentenced in just over a month.

    I suspect the school took action so the administration can be ‘doing something’ about the problem.

  9. The Wine Mule

    I wish somebody would nab the idiot who’s putting “Tiger Tribe” tags all over Merrimon…

  10. As I have previously written on this page, I think graffiti should carry with it an astronomical fine, permanently linked to the violator’s social security number, something along the lines of $25,000 for the first offense should work I think.

    That way, a person caught painting another person’s property would carry with them the albatross of their poor judgement for a long, long time–ironically, not unlike a college loan. Imagine, getting caught doing graffiti means you are in debt for at least 20 years, the failure to pay meaning no auto loans, no home loans, all kinds of economic punishment.

    Then you would see this problem vanish.

  11. @Jason Ross Martin –

    I respectfully disagree with your vision of punishment for vandalism.

    Making someone pay for petty vandalism to the tune of $25,000 with the purpose of destroying them economically as a deterrent will not work for a number of reasons:

    1. Most perpetrators are youth who don’t have any true economic assets nor do they value them at that point in their lives.

    2. The actual cost to society for the crime is no where near $25,000 dollars. Maximum cleanup, (I’m just guessing here) for a large wall would be probably around $1000 – $1500 max).

    3. Economic Burden as a punishment makes the state money, as seen with parking tickets. Do you really think that all municipalities around the country really ~want~ to stop speeding and loose a revenue stream for local law enforcement? Ask any small town with a speed trap. If local municipalities can get years of payment out of people for this crime, which is next? Are we all going to be working to pay off some crime or other?

    4. You are not only punishing them economically, but you are punishing society. If they can be rehabilitated into a productive member of society instead of being denied credit and relegated to never being a landowner (mortgage), driver (car loan), I think you’ll find we are all better off.

    5. The people may resort to other forms of crime due to the economic stress you have imposed on them.

    By overpunishing, you may be creating a whole class of people with no economic way out who just don’t care if they tag your property or not.

    Punishment vs. Rehabilitation question here, would you rather live next to someone who, as a youth broke a few laws, got caught, and moved on to be a law abiding citizen, or someone that 20 years after committing those crimes is still bitter that they are still paying. Which is better for our society?

  12. travelah

    How long before the “beloved” taggers decorate the new mural under the bridge?

  13. Piffy!

    “I wish somebody would nab the idiot who’s putting “Tiger Tribe” tags all over Merrimon… ”

    The only way they APD ever “nabbed” anyone was from “inside information”, not actual police work.

    I think who dress up like chickens should be fined 25k.

  14. Rob Close

    I sincerely doubt taggers will EVER attack the mural under the bridge – it’s already colorful enough, there’s no banality to rebel against.

    $25k for being caught? Unreasonable $2k? Sure.

    And expelling someone from school before they were found guilty in court, and then leaking that information to the police who leak it to the media – good lord, does UNCA want to be sued?

  15. entopticon

    I have a feeling that taggers don’t realize how much harm that they do to people. When my freshly painted (at great expense to me) building was tagged, I got a letter and a phone call from the city threatening that if I didn’t repaint my building at my expense, I would be charged $100 a day until I complied. I was already borrowing money just to keep my head above water and the cost of repainting the building would have been devastating. I had the building recently painted to put it on the market because I ran out of money to fix it up.

    Frankly, I think the city’s policy punishes the victim. If the police had protected my property, which is what they are paid to do, my building wouldn’t have been tagged. I was already victimized by the taggers who scrawled on the newly painted building.

    When the city told me that I was going to have to pay money I didn’t have for being nothing more than an innocent victim, it certainly added insult to injury. At a time when I already felt like I was hemorrhaging money, the city chose to punish me for being the victim of a crime.

    I remember being horrified when I learned about how as Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin started charging rape victims for their own rape kits. The city of Asheville made me able to empathize even more with those victims.

  16. Piffy!

    entop-It sounds like it is the city (and, by extension those who support the city’s absurd law that you refer to) who is harming your business, and not any “taggers.”

    Really, how petty vandals that only damage property, and quite minimally at that, came to be the whipping-boy for all of Asheville’s very real problems seems absurd to me.

    Apparently a city council and mayor who cant balance a budget, a Sherrif and Police department rife with corruption, a serious traffic problem, an issue with over-development, a water-system that loses over 50% of its supply to faulty pipes daily, are all far less important than some stupid teenager writing his name on a wall.

    Great Priorities, Asheville.

    Perhaps people will start going after pigeons
    for pooping next?

    How about all those cigarette buts and litter? Arent those far more of an issue than ink and paint?

    How about a landfill that is too full? How about industrial run-off into the water supply? How about a plumbing system that wastes water?

    nope, just those pesky petty criminals. Asheville would be a perfect place without those petty vandils.

  17. entopticon

    Reality Check, I wish the taggers had painted my building, but there is not much chance that they will ever be caught, and I would have been fined $100 a day waiting for that to happen. Good paint is insanely expensive and hiring painters is certainly not cheap. I have a physical handicap that attacks my nervous system so things such as painting are very difficult for me, but I couldn’t afford to have it repainted so I ended up pushing my way through it at my own expense.

    Concerning the article on Palin and the rape kit issue, they certainly don’t rule out her involvement by any means. Personally I agree with the former Alaska state representative, Eric Croft, who sponsored the 2000 legislation to ban the practice, who told CNN that “I find it hard to believe that for six months a small town, a police chief, would lead the fight against a statewide piece of legislation receiving unanimous support and the mayor not know about it.”

    Wasilla had only a few thousand people living there at the time and it is very hard to imagine that the Mayor wouldn’t have been aware of such decisions. If she didn’t know, I still think she is certainly at least partially responsible for what happened under her watch.

    That said, regardless of whose fault it was, I definitely empathize with the victims who were victimized a second time by their local government.

  18. entopticon

    The (PFKaP) said: “entop-It sounds like it is the city (and, by extension those who support the city’s absurd law that you refer to) who is harming your business, and not any “taggers.””

    How’s that? I don’t see the rationale behind saying that taggers scrawling all over a newly painted building didn’t cause me harm. Even if the city hadn’t stepped in and threatened to start fining me $100 a day if I didn’t have the building repainted, I was still harmed by the tagger’s actions.

    That said, I certainly did feel like I was being victimized a second time by the city, who chose to punish me financially for someone else’s crimes, even though it was their job to protect me in the first place.

  19. Rob Close

    the cities policy of punishing victims here is absolutely terrible, and should be changed by city council immediately. agreed!

  20. If Mr. Harrill is found guilty, will he be made to come and paint over his tag on my building? WIll I get any restitution?

    I doubt it.

    Yes, graffiti is minimal damage, if compared to ramming a car into a building (like happened to our pals The Admiral) but still, the cost, time and hassle of repainting can really hurt any small business.

    It also pisses us off.

  21. Expelling a student for graffiti is just about the stupidest thing act ever. Not only does it “make examples” of people, which I wholeheartedly do not support, but it prevents these youths from getting an education that would provide them the opportunity to make better choices in their future.

    It’s the same as busting kids for marijuana: smoke a joint & get busted it prevents someone from ever being able to get student loans. So if they can’t have access to better opportunities, how to you ever expect them to make better decisions? Policy’s such as these just keep people in the cycle of crime: street to jail to prison to street to jail.

    Taggers should be punished severely with fines and community service, repeat offenders do hard time. Graffiti artists should be given a space to practice their craft without it automatically being illegal. In fact, some good graffiti murals would be a great way to spruce up & infuse art and creativity into the projects.

    Regardless – Kelly Miller’s recent comments on graffiti makes me believe he influenced this expulsion in some manner. The city government should have no sway whatsoever in UNC-Asheville’s academic authority. Unless the students were doing graffiti on campus, there are no grounds for expulsion.

    This is strike one of Kelly Miller abusing his role on council. Now with the hotel tax coming to vote, and his role in the Chamber of Commerce, I fear the public will see more abuse of his new-found bridging power. The Chamber of Commerce should have never been given a vote on City Council.

  22. Reality Check

    JBo – You made some good points. However, providing a place for them to ‘practice their craft’ will redefine what they do. The excitement of painting on someone elses property is most of the allure of the act of graffiti. I think you would find participation is that program lacking.

  23. mogmismo:

    You made a compelling argument against my suggestion. However I think you missed a critical detail:

    If a law were passed that made it clear that a first offense of graffiti painting did carry with it a $25,000 fine, forever linked to your social security number, it would act as an extreme deterrent to the act. And so rather than your imaginary neighborhood choice, between a neighbor who had been rehabilitated from their criminal acts vs. a neighbor still shackled to the financial repercussions of their acts–may be a leap in logic.

    Personally, I can’t imagine a person risking such a life-changing punishment over a moment of glory with a can of spray paint.

    Of course, still you have the issue of enforcement which is at the heart of this. The real problem is, we don’t have the means to oversee what goes on in the community, and the taggers know this.

    There’s no way that it is justifiable to punish a business owner by threatening to fine them if they don’t paint over graffiti. That is just deplorable.

    Someone should start a business on Merrimon, where all they do is stay up all night, driving around with a spotlight seeking these miscreants in the act. Then, the day shift can be painting over graffiti at a cut-rate price so that business owners can spend their time trying to figure out how to keep their door open in this horrid economy.

    Maybe it could be me. I can dress in a different mascot costume while I paint over graffiti and cross-promote as well.

    Hear that, new Ace Hardware manager? Go ahead and order a Hammer Suit for me. A pizza suit for that area, maybe a big enchilada suit and a bagel suit and a Bong Suit (yeah the Octopus Garden is right over there too)….

    I’ll stock up on cheap paint that matches all the buildings on Merrimon. I think I have found my niche.

  24. Jason –

    I think the chicken & pie has effected to your brain. ;-)

    But mogmismo has excellent points, as do you.

    Carl Mumpower has been the constant crusader so far as attempting to hold our police to level of quality. The police weren’t able to prevent homeless people from panhandling and harassing people in front of the library, so we the public lost our benches.

    The police can’t effectively stop tagging, so we punish business owners by fining them for getting tagged? It makes little sense.

    Possibly the *only* good that comes from tagging is when these types mark up buildings that have become abandoned and dangerous.
    It is a like a giant calling card to let the community know that, “Hey, this building is a squatter hang out for hard drugs and potential rape.” Similar to how Detroit burns its abandoned dangerous buildings, if we find these shacks that have been tagged it lets the community know we have to do something about it.

    I’m not standing up for people who do this, but there have always been symbols that migrating people have used to pass information. Train car graffiti is a merge of the punk and hobo lifestyles.

    BTW: MOMS = Marks on Most Surfaces

  25. Reality Check:

    What if you did a campaign to actually accept graffiti as art amongst your culture and society? Similar to some of the throw-up’s that has been incorporated down by the Asheville Mural Project’s work on the Lexington Ave bridge. See how that area is so much more alive and vibrant?

    There are many artists out there where graffiti is their tool of creativity. On a global level the artist Banksy is a great example, and regionally there is the artist Ishmael. Yes, these fellows have to keep their identity quiet, as that is part of the current status of graffitti.

    But what if you paid artists (yes, giving them working opportunities) to paint more inspiring graffiti style murals in places like Pisgah View, Deaver View, and Hillcrest? It would start to change the trend of graffiti – opening up the awareness of it as a cultural tool for positive change while taking away some of the notoriety that comes with illegal fame. If you have legal fame, you get a lot more respect and it opens up better opportunities for the artist’s future.

    Not to mention, it separates the taggers (often known as worthless scum vandals) and the art that can come from a person with a vision and can of spray paint.

  26. Reality Check

    JBo – Did the Lex ave bridge reduce graffiti in other places? Unfortunately not. I agree that there a few fledgling artists in the bunch, but the fact remains that the entire concept of graffiti is that its on someone else’s property. Someone who probably doesn’t want their property ‘decorated’ – like Entopticon. The excitement of not getting caught is a big deal. Illegal fame is popular these days. Accepting vandalism is a bad idea from the start. Do your best to separate the artists from the vandals and then punish the vandals. My guess is that it breaks down to 10% fledgling artists and 90% who do it for the excitement of committing a crime and not getting caught.

  27. Piffy!

    If anyone wants to place a wager on the likelihood of graffiti ever disappearing from our town, or society in general, send me a PM.

    For everyone else, we know this is a non-issue for people to argue about since it is never, ever going to disappear.

    Most graffiti comes from those marginalized by society in some way. J-bo’s right in that sense. Give better outlets for the creative types and you could channel quite a bit of the stuff into a more “accepted” direction. But, as has been shown over on the Forums, even then you will get people complaining that they dont like it, even when it is legal and part of a community effort. Because it takes even less time to complain about graffiti than it does to scribble up a tag.

  28. Piffy!

    RC-I think you might find that, if you had any real basis for claiming expertise on the subject, which you obviously dont, that those numbers are much closer to *90% fledgling artists and 10% who do it for the excitement of committing a crime and not getting caught.*

    But I’m sure that might ruin your pre-conceived assumptions about a culture you know little-to-nothing about.

  29. Reality Check

    I’ll put a margin of error on my numbers at 30% Do you have empirical data? Just because the vandals have skills doesn’t mean that they want to be artists or would be if you paid them to do it or paid for their art classes.

    “If anyone wants to place a wager on the likelihood of graffiti ever disappearing from our town, or society in general, send me a PM.

    We agree on that.

  30. alex olsen

    well the way that apd got ahold of that information is because the campus police at unca are excuse my language but for a lack of better words corrupt as fuck. and i can gaurantee you that nothing will be done for violating privacy rules..just catch those damn taggers..unca campus police need to get off there high horses..after all they aren’t even real police officers..remember, thats why they are stuck to report to noise complaints in dorm rooms, and watch over basketball games. Trust me i have seen this type of situation too many times from unca. And i recently researched and found that neither haltiwanger or harrill have been found guilty im not quite sure as how all this information can be posted all around asheville as being true. I have been arrested before and i clearly remember, being innocent until proven guilty.

  31. Piffy!

    *”Just because the vandals have skills doesn’t mean that they want to be artists or would be if you paid them to do it or paid for their art classes.”*

    Well, I know from a rough poll of the kids and adults i know who *may* be affiliated with this kind of activity, that most of them would love to have a place that they could utilize their skills in a way that might not land them in jail. So your number of “10%” even with a margin of error of 30% (pretty high margin of error) is way off base.

    but, yes, it being illegal certainly makes it that much more appealing to the “vandals”. My main point is that people who complain about it, in general, have never been “harmed” by graffiti, and are merely complaining about something they dont understand, much like ralph roberts in the thread i linked to above.

    Obviously this does not count for folks like the Rocket Club or entop who had to pay to clean up someone else’s mess, but i still maintain that is the minority, and really only due to city laws that punish the property owner. You might be surprised to learn that dudes that due ugly, disrespectful crap like that are generally shunned, mocked, and sometimes assaulted by members of the “community”.

    Also, it is common knowledge that the APD got their info from on these particular kids because one of them gave up names of their “friends”.

    not exactly investigative work.

  32. Piffy!


    I would suggest that the Rocket Club and any other business effected by graffiti develop a relationship with members of the graffiti community. they might not be too shocked to find out that some of their patrons are among this group.

    Often times, when a business has, say, a mural on their wall, it is very rare that it will have a crappy tag or throw-up put over it, because those in the community will self-regulate far better than the APD ever could, and at little to no cost to the business.

  33. Rob Close

    i remember living in the dorms – on four different occasions, four different people charged a fellow resident with assault, and after the fourth time we were assaulted, campus police finally did something – made the violent jerk move to another building on the other side of campus. Of course, weeks later he was back in our building, trying to be friendly because he had some ecstasy he was trying to sell.

    I also had a scooter stolen late at night from about 25 yards directly in front of the police building. Gone.

    That’s how effective UNCAPD were while I was there.

  34. The (PFKaP) – you make a lot of great points I totally stand behind.

    As part of the community service that taggers have to do if they get caught, they must go around to every business and otherwise tagged building and clean it up for the property owners. Fines collected from graffiti artists should assist in refunding property owner’s paint costs. Property owners should not be futher punished, fined, or bullied by city policy.
    Although, if you do get consistently tagged as a business owner, you may want to consider there may be a member of that crowd that has a personal vendetta against you. Have you offended anyone who seems like they might participate in vandal tagging? It’s harder to spot ‘taggers’ and graffiti artists than one may think.

    It’s all about seeing the people perspective.
    People who spray with paint illegally are folks who for some reason feel the need to ‘put the writing on the wall’ as it were. Throughout history people who have been disenfranchised without a voice have used wall writings as a means of public forum. Sometimes these people have a totally valid reason to need a voice, and sometimes, yes, it is just a bunch of stupid kids.

    Regardless, if you ask folks who have done graffiti and have done hard time for it, they will tell you and all of the younger generations that getting caught is not worth it. There will always be graffiti, so if you make legal space avaialable a lot of people will stop risking their lives to practice their craft. If you can start to change the public perception both within the graffiti world of Asheville and the public’s perception (with things like the Asheville Mural Project, which has in fact cut down drastically on graffiti and tagging around that specific area) then you can start to approach the topic in a finally proactive manner.

    Well, I’m out for the innaguration folks –
    follow me at the event on twitter if you want:

    Peace – JBo

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