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Iconic Cathedral Targeted by Vandalism

Thursday, April 4, 2013

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Many college students want to leave their mark on their universities; however, one spray-paint-wielding student’s mark at the University of Pittsburgh may yield him a felony record.

Daniel Mohammad Khan-Yousufzai, 21, has been charged with defacing the Cathedral of Learning, a centerpiece of the Pittsburgh, PA, university campus, according to local reports. The damage is estimated at $100,000, campus officials told reporters.

Cathedral of Learning
Bill Price III / Wikimedia Commons

Built in 1926 in the Gothic Revival style, the Cathedral of Learning is described as the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh campus. 

The student is alleged to have scrawled “WRC” in black and blue spray paint in the Cathedral’s common area on Saturday (March 30) morning.

Charges and Cost

Police said Khan-Yousufzai then sat outside the Gothic Revival tower on a bench until he was apprehended by a University of Pittsburgh police officer. Reports citing the criminal complaint say that his backpack contained paint cans, and his hands were covered in the coating.

Officials said it will cost the university up to $100,000 to remove the paint from the historic sandstone interior, reports note.

Cathedral of Learning
Brian Donovan / Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Mohammad Khan-Yousufzai was alleged to have etched graffiti in the Cathedral's Commons Room, shown above.

Khan-Yousufzai has been charged with criminal mischief, a felony due to the amount of damage (exceeding $5,000); one felony and one misdemeanor count of institutional vandalism; and a misdemeanor count of possessing instruments of crime, reports say.

Message Meaning

The letters scrawled on the building stand for “Worker Rights Consortium,” a labor rights monitoring organization.

“Members of the Pitt chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy want the university to affiliate with WRC to ensure fair labor practices where logo goods are made, but Pitt officials have said they're satisfied with their existing relationship with the Fair Labor Association,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

However, the newspaper says, the group’s president Viveka Mandava condemned Khan-Yousufzai's actions, noting that he did not attend meetings or participate in its campaign.

About the Cathedral

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Cathedral of Learning is a landmark of the university. The 535-foot, 42-story, steel and stone tower was designed by architect Charles Z. Klauder, of Philadelphia, and began construction in 1926.

The building houses classrooms and administrative offices.

The University of Pittsburgh, founded in 1787, is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the United States.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Criminal acts; Ethics; Graffiti; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Maintenance + Renovation; Vandalism

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