Friday February 22, 2002
Technique - The South's Liveliest College NewspaperFocus

When stealing only one “T” just won’t do


The CLA swiped ‘T’s from Woodruff, Fitten, Sixth Street Apartments and at thirteen other campus buildings.

By Madhu Adiga and Sriram Narasimha Staff Writers

This statement was made by Institute President Wayne Clough in response to rising concern about the dangers of stealing the ‘T’ from Tech Tower, a tradition that began over 30 years ago. The safety of this tradition has always been a concern and the recent death referred to by President Clough has raised serious discussion over the danger involved in such a stunt. Although this practice has been discouraged, several students found an alternative.

Towards the end of Fall Semester, several students in the Caldwell residence hall formed a faction in response to having to move out of the dorm for renovations at the end of finals. A representative from the group, which called itself the Caldwell Liberation Army (CLA), was approached by the Technique for a statement, and spoke under anonymity. Because the Caldwell residents moved this semester, the CLA is now dissolved. (Names have been changed to protect the culprits; we’ll call their representative “Burdell.")

“The first conception of the idea of stealing the ‘T’ came about at the dinner table one night,” said Burdell. “We were all talking about stealing the big ‘T’ and how you couldn’t do that any more. We then noticed how many other ‘T’s there were on campus buildings, and we thought, ‘Hey, what if all the little ‘T’s disappeared around Atlanta? That would be even bigger than stealing the big one.’ So we got together, four of us, and started pillaging Tech for all the little ‘T’s.”

A total of 32 ‘T’s were stolen from sixteen different buildings on campus over a time period of two nights and one day. The first incident occurred when the group stole both ‘T’s from the back of Fitten residence hall. The second building was Woodruff North.

“We had attempted to steal a frat letter, but we realized that they would find out who it was and kill us, so we decided no fraternities or sororities,” Burdell said.

According to Burdell, the easiest buildings to retrieve the ‘T’s from were the newer buildings. “The ‘T’s on the Health Center were the hardest to get, but it was the easiest building to get to without being noticed. The hardest [‘T’s] to reach were on the College of Computing and the Electrical Engineering Building.”

The Van Leer Building’s ‘T’s were stolen in broad daylight. Two of the former CLA members stood watch from a distance while the third member climbed the building armed with a hammer in his bookbag and pried off the ‘T.’

The removal from the CoC, however proved to be more difficult. “When the person...was hanging off the CoC, he was literally holding on with his legs. A car turned the corner to go to the architecture building. It turned out to be a streetsweeper, but the [CLA member hanging off the building] took a nice ten-foot fall to the ground.”

The incident revealed that the issue of safety was still a concern, despite the smaller scale of the prank. According to the Office of the Dean of Students, the degree of danger involved in committing such an offense is a major contributing factor in taking disciplinary action.

“The stealing of the Tech ‘T’ is an issue of damage and extreme physical danger,” said Karen Boyd, Senior Associate Dean of Students.

“The only reason we would become involved is because of the perception of it being a tradition and the danger that is associated with it,” said Boyd.

In addition, the magnitude of the financial cost associated with the crime would have to be assessed in order to make accurate judgements on the nature of the sanction on the student. In the case of the stealing of the smaller ‘T’s, around campus however, the cost has been estimated by the Department of Facilities as being approximately 15 to 20 dollars per letter.

“Insurance doesn’t cut in until you have a damage value of $5000, so in terms of making repairs, incidents like this are minor compared to the Tech Tower vandalism,” said Warren Page, Director of Operations and Maintenance.

When vandalism and external damage occur, the type of building involved determines who is in charge of repairs. The Department of Facilities handles cases involving administrative and academic buildings, such as the College of Computing and the Rich Building, but the Department of Housing handles any damage to the residence halls.

“With buildings like the Health Center and the Bookstore, the staff would have to notify us and put in a request for a replacement. In this case, the cost of replacement would come out of their budget rather than ours,” said Page.

The former CLA did consider this issue when they undertook their mission, but they still stand by their decision. “We feel bad that we stole them, but...because we didn’t have our freshman experience, we are not surrendering the ‘T’s back,” said Burdell. Why are they so bitter? The fact that these students were forced to move out of Caldwell is actually one of the reasons they stole the ‘T’s. According to Burdell, all of the group members felt extremely dissatisfied with their Freshman Experience.

“With no more Caldwell, our friendships are fading because we are now split up all over the place and not even in freshman dorms,” Burdell said.

The former CLA feels a sense of accomplishment for having thought of such a creative prank and hope that it may become a tradition for them. However, according to Dean Boyd, this may be yet another reason to charge the students if caught.

“We evaluate each incident individually,” Boyd said. “However, if the student was successful in their actions [sic], it doesn’t mean that the next student who follows their tradition will be too. We assess the element of danger to future students potentially,” said Boyd.

Wondering where the missing letters are now? You won’t find them. According to the former CLA, some were given away as party favors last semester. Then, at the semester’s close, the remaining letters were taken to various out-of-state residences.