A Study of Anonymous Responses on the Wall on a Higher Education Campus

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Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology

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Greenwood Village, CO

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The purpose of this study is to understand university students’ lives and find out campus issues that they encounter and experience through the examination of anonymous words and comments written on the glass windows of a campus office at a Midwestern university. The Office of Student Success (OSS) posts a new topic/question on the glass windows every week in front of their office for students to anonymously express, free from the restraints of social and cultural norms, their thoughts and ideas. At request of the OSS director, this study was undertaken to analyze anonymous responses on the glass windows in order to glean insight from them, shed light on campus issues, and possibly enable a proactive approach to student needs. To operationalize our research, we first reviewed graffiti studies. Graffiti is defined as a pictorial or visual inscription on a publically accessible surface, and it can be a personal and free form of communication absent of common social restraints which would usually prevent individuals from conveying their thoughts (Abel & Buckley, 1977; Gross & Gross, 1993; Hanaeuer, 2011). Drawing on Sad and Kutlu’s (2009) categorization, we analyzed a total of 1336 responses in order to identify patterns and themes.


graffiti studies; written texts; anonymity; university students; higher education


Communication | Community-Based Research | Higher Education | Sociology

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