The banner bandit: Scripps banner burglaries result in $6,000 damages

Banners hang from poles next to a sidewalk
In late August and early September, a series of thefts left Scripps College with only one of its 22 campus-wide banners, resulting in $6,000 of total damages. (Emma Jensen • The Student Life)

Banner bandits struck on Scripps College’s campus — not once, but 21 times. The banners that once adorned the campus-wide lamp posts disappeared in late August and early September. These thefts resulted in $6,000 of total damages as well as additional work for staff to replace the banners.

Students were first notified of the thefts on the morning of Sept. 28, when they received an email from Sha Bradley, dean of students and vice president of student affairs and Binti Harvey, vice president for external relations and institutional advancement.

In their email, Bradley and Harvey said that 21 out of the 22 Scripps banners installed at the beginning of the semester had been stolen. They encouraged students to share any relevant information regarding the missing banners with the college or with campus safety.

“These banners serve many purposes: to welcome our community to the campus; to convey a sense of celebration of joyful events such as New Student Programs and Orientation (NSPO) and inauguration; to create awareness of College events; and to reinforce pride on our campus,” Harvey and Bradley said.

The banners started disappearing at the start of the semester — just before NSPO and President Amy Marcus-Newhall’s inauguration — Marcy Robinson, director of events and conference services at Scripps, told TSL. The timing, she explained, amplified the already significant effects of the thefts.

“Banners have been taken in the past but not at this rate,” Robinson said. “In addition to the significant expense to the College, it creates additional work for staff to replace the banners and takes from the joyous and celebratory atmosphere we’re aiming to create.”

Echoing the college’s frustrations, Ainsley Murphy SC ’26 said she felt that the thefts were not only detrimental to the campus environment but also disrespectful to Scripps overall.

“I just think it’s rude to steal signs,” Murphy said. “Scripps put money into making these banners […] and I think for someone to take [them] is rude to the community.”

Not all students within the 5C community sympathized with Scripps to the extent that Murphy did. John Chisholm PZ ’26, for example, said he would rather see administrators address bike theft at the 5Cs.

“Ultimately, I think there are way worse things happening on campus,” Chisholm said. “People stealing personal property is a much more legitimate issue.”

Despite varying opinions on the severity of the recent banner thefts at Scripps, several students agreed that these thefts were reflective of a larger trend at the colleges.

“I’ve seen people get up on other people’s shoulders and steal signs around the campuses before,” Chisholm said. “This isn’t the first time something’s been stolen.”

The 5C community is no stranger to property theft — Scripps administration informed TSL that just last year, several Scripps Presents banners went missing. Similarly, last September, during the annual Atwood Dorm Scavenger Hunt at Harvey Mudd, students accidentally ripped a  Pitzer College banner, costing the school $5,000 in damages.

Murphy attributed these thefts to the prank culture present within the 5C community, which she felt encouraged students to use stolen items as dorm decor.

“I honestly think it’s just people from other colleges, or even people at Scripps, who like to steal stuff from their college or from other colleges and hang it up in their dorm room,” Murphy said. “I honestly think that the theft was from college students who were doing it as a joke.”

Alex King PZ ’23, who stole a CMC flag during his freshman year at the 5Cs, explained his own reasoning for stealing in a way that aligned with Murphy’s theory.

“I thought it would be fun,” King said. “I thought it would be awesome to put in my dorm room — kind of like a trophy from a fun night out.”

King argued that, in the case of the recent thefts at Scripps, the aesthetics of the banners likely contributed to the issue.

“Sometimes, if you design a banner that looks too good, you are suffering from success,” King said. “[Students] stole it because they were like, ‘I can hang this up in my dorm room and show that I am a rebellious person.’”

While King stated that it was not ideal for so many banners to be missing at a time when many prospective students come to tour campus, he did not think that it was a major concern.

“I don’t think anybody would judge too harshly though,” King said. “That certainly wouldn’t have changed my mind in the college search.”

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