Richard A. Neville, vice president for student life, termed the incident ''so discouraging."
The vandals damaged the abstract work created by sculptor Jay Dugan of Meadowbrook by using cables or other equipment that somehow enabled them to
break part of the immense work into pieces, Dugan said.
"I wanted people to touch it," Dugan said. "The thing is, they touched it a little too strongly."
Repairs to the work, which is valued at $200,000, are estimated to cost $60,000 to $70,000, he said.
Vandalism is not the only byproduct of excessive drinking. Nor is the drinking a problem unique to Villanova. Statistically, Villanova fits the national norm.
According to data compiled by college officials around the country, two of every 10 American college students will have been harmfully involved with alcohol by the time they graduate. One of every 10 will be an alcoholic.
For that reason, drinking has become a major concern on U.S. campuses. Its danger is revealed in incidents of vandalism and tragedies.
* In February, 36 Princeton students overindulged in alcohol. One of them
lapsed into a coma.
* Several days later, James Callahan, an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman, died from alcohol poisoning after drinking too many "kamikazes" - a drink made of three parts vodka, two parts triple sec and one part lime juice - at a fraternity party.
* Back in 1984, a West Chester University student died of an alcohol overdose on his 21st birthday after drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey.
* Since the beginning of this school year, 22 of Villanova's 6,500 students have been hospitalized because of severe drunkenness or injuries related to their drunken state. At many schools throughout the country, including Villanova, administrators now regard alcoholism as a campus problem. In response, they have begun to fight for their students' lives.
Early this year, in the middle of her freshman year at Villanova, Beth - a pseudonym - learned an important lesson.
As she recalls the evening, Beth and a male friend consented to a drinking contest in a dorm room one Friday night in January. For a while, they had tried to limit themselves to just two drinks per hour - the rate advised by school officials during orientation as a "safe" consumption rate. Then, the guy pulled ahead, and her friends cheered her on.
"I had about five drinks in about an hour and a half," Beth recalled. "I didn't remember what happened."
Her friends told her later: "I got sick all over the stairs. They carried me back to the dorm, and then I started throwing up blood. My friends got scared."
Several hours later, Beth woke up alone in a dark room at Bryn Mawr Hospital, where she stayed overnight.
Villanova officials believe education and counseling are the most effective weapons in combating alcohol abuse. Seminars are conducted for freshmen, athletes, and fraternity and sorority members, as well as for students involved with abusive behavior because of drinking. There are support groups for recovering drinkers and for students whose family members have drinking problems. The school also provides counseling services.
Beth, for example, was one of a dozen students attending a recent three- night alcohol education program designed to teach students how to drink, not to tell them not to drink.
The programs are conducted at Villanova's new Center for Drug and Alcohol Assistance, which opened formally last fall to teach and counsel students about alcohol and drugs. A discipline course, required of students who have been caught drinking or using drugs, advises students to know what and how much they are drinking.
"We were drinking rum with orange juice, lemonade and some other punch," Beth said. "I didn't know how much (rum) was in the glass."
Once the hangover subsided, she was just embarrassed.
"I couldn't look at my friends," she said. "They were all very sweet."
"I'm just so scared and turned off to drinking," she said. "I can't even smell it without getting nauseous."
If someone, such as Beth, has a problem with drinking or drugs at Villanova, Jan Janosik wants to know about it.
Head of the school's new drug and alcohol assistance center, Janosik began working in the university's residence-life department seven years ago, handling discipline problems.
"I quickly discovered that alcohol was at the core of most of the troubles," she said. By 1983-84 she had set up classes in responsible decision-making and peer counseling and other programs, and was almost immediately busy.
So far this year, more than 400 students have participated in one of the center's programs.
Janosik said she was worried that at Villanova, there is a tragedy such as the one at Rutgers just waiting to happen.
In fact, it already has. In 1982, a 19-year-old Villanova student, Monica Buckley, was killed in a car accident in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia after a fraternity party. Her family and a high school friend, who was also in the accident and was left a quadriplegic, sued the fraternity.
Last fall, a Villanova fraternity pledge who had been drinking wandered onto Lancaster Avenue and suffered head injuries when he was hit by a car.
The 22 students who were hospitalized this year had blood-alcohol levels of between .25 percent and .35 percent. "Drunk" is a minimum level of .10 percent, experts say, and .30 percent can result in a coma and .40 percent in death.
Some of the students had other injuries, such as cut heads, broken wrists, concussions.
"To say they're not going to drink flies in the face of reality," said Neville, Villanova's vice president for student life. "I'd rather see a program where moderate drinking is the norm and abusive drinking is severely dealt with."
Neville said that because of the university's liability in an accident, the school rarely permits drinking at campus functions and then only when the events are tightly controlled.
The Rev. John P. Stack, dean of students, said students who drink have learned to be discreet, but "we know there's drinking going on. We'd need one-to-one (to police it). When we see it and we're aware of it, we confront it."
At Villanova, students who are 21, the legal drinking age in Pennsylvania, are permitted to have alcohol in their dormitory rooms. Many students say that younger students sneak the beer or liquor in, and sometimes they are caught.
A third of the students live off campus in apartments, beyond the rules of the university.
Last year, the school's alcohol and drug counseling center received a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In September the center moved to quarters in the basement of Stanford Hall dormitory, where it has new furniture, a spacious, homey meeting room, private offices, reading areas and hand-stenciled walls.
The school's goal is to teach students about alcohol so they can handle it maturely and responsibly.
Janosik is assisted in handling an increasing caseload of students by Mike Green, a consultant hired by the university. Both Janosik and Green, who heads Collegiate Consultants on Drugs and Alcohol, start with the premise that students drink. They don't try to stop them - even though 90 percent of the 6,500 students are legally underage.
"Saying 'don't' has never been a deterrent. For us to say that, it becomes a joke. We say, 'We would prefer you didn't, but dealing with reality, we know you're going to do it anyway,' " Janosik said.
So she tries to appeal to their sense of self-respect: "To deal with their self-esteem and encourage them to drink responsibly for their own wellness."
The two team up to teach disciplinary classes, which students must attend if they are caught using drugs or drinking underage.
At a recent class attended by 12 students, five had been caught smoking marijuana, two had been picked up by campus police for drunkenness, and five had been injured and hospitalized as a result of their drinking.
"We're not assuming any of you are alcoholics," Janosik told the group. ''Maybe you were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. But we want to build your alcohol awareness. We don't want to take away your alcohol. We just want to build your awareness.
"It is okay to drink," she said.
According to Janosik, the drinking problem begins long before students set foot on Villanova's campus.
"Kids start so young and are already bored with what we saw as typical experimentation," she said. "Most of the kids I work with started (drinking) in seventh or eighth grade."
By college age, they are bored and beginning to experiment with drinking games: funneling - drinking beer through a funnel; using "beer bongs" - drinking beer through a hose attached to a keg, and shotgunning - pouring shots and beers down in rapid succession.
Some like strong drinks such as grain alcohol in fruit punch and exotic mixed drinks such as kamikazes, and there are plenty of places to experiment a short distance from campus.
Wednesday night is "import night" - special prices on imported beers - at Kelly's in Bryn Mawr. On Thursdays, students like to start the weekend early at "Smoke's" (Smokey Joe's) in Wayne.
Then there's Mallory's in Bryn Mawr, Gullifty's in Rosemont, John Barleycorn's Pub in Bryn Mawr, and Friendly Saloon in Ardmore.
Paul Ryan, manager of the family-owned Smokey Joe's, offers a litany of methods the restaurant uses to control this would-be clientele, many of whom are not yet 21.
Ryan has confiscated hundreds of fake identification cards and instituted methods to weed out the illegal drinkers.
"We videotape everybody who walks through the door to make sure they are carded, and we ask them to sign affidavits if there is any question about their age," he said. The effort is as much to protect him from lawsuits in the event of an accident involving a student as it is to protect his patrons' well-being.
Ryan, whose family has run the original Smokey Joe's near the University of Pennsylvania campus since the Prohibition era, said that students seem to be more aware of drinking too much than in the past.
"Education at younger years seems to be having a good effect," Ryan said.
Yet Smokey Joe's still has its share of problems, and they occasionally spill over into the community.
Neighbors living near the Lancaster Avenue restaurant have often complained to Radnor commissioners about noisy students leaving the bar. Ryan hired an off-duty police officer to patrol the area. Two years ago the bar was raided, and five students were arrested, including four 20-year-olds who had fake IDs and a fifth student who had sneaked in the back door. Smokey Joe's was fined $750.
Both state and local police keep close watch on establishments to enforce the tougher state drinking laws that now place legal responsibilities on the bar owners and bartenders as well as the drinkers.
Raids can result from complaints by neighbors about disturbances outside the bar or about the apparent age of patrons, according to Charles Douglass, assistant supervisor of the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement of the Pennsylvania State Police.
Radnor Township police arrested 174 Villanova students during the 1986-87 school year. The charges included 68 violations of the liquor laws, 78 violations of the disorderly conduct ordinance and violations of nuisance and noise ordinances.
Other police departments also have had to deal with student drinking. For example, 17 students were arrested by Haverford Township police Feb. 4 for underage drinking at John Barleycorn's Pub.
In the last couple of months, Johanne Sharp, editor-in-chief of The Villanovan, the student newspaper, has lost some of her friends who are ''Greeks," the term for fraternity and sorority members.
On Feb. 19, after the Rutgers tragedy, Sharp published an editorial urging the administration to reconsider its support of Villanova fraternities and sororities, which she said permit "underage and excessive alcohol consumption."
"If the university is to continue to support the Greek system as it stands today, with many activities specifically geared toward alcohol, Villanova is in effect promoting alcoholism," she wrote.
Outraged, the Greeks bombarded Sharp with letters. The next week the paper printed two pages of letters attacking the editorial and the cartoon the paper had published with it, which showed two Rutgers fraternity members standing by as a third was wheeled on a stretcher toward an ambulance.
Sharp, 20, a junior from Atlantic City, in an interview described Villanova as a "damp campus," though she said people don't like to admit it.
"No one is forced to drink," she said, "but it's encouraged so much."
Although she knows that drinking goes on in the dorms as well as at fraternity parties, she said, she thinks it is wrong that so much drinking happens within clubs that are sanctioned by the school.
However, Lee Losciale, 21, outgoing president of the college's Intrafraternity Council, called the editorial "uneducated, uninformed and ignorant."
Losciale acknowledged that there is drinking at parties both on and off campus, but said that things have changed in his four years at Villanova.
"If you look at rush practices now, you see a drier, cleaner rush," he said.
He cited other changes. At parties, up to 10 fraternity brothers remain sober to keep things in line and to provide rides home for people who need them, he said.
Fraternity parties, which once were open to everyone, are now closed to all except members and one guest each, Losciale said, and fraternity and sorority members are frequently lectured to by lawyers about liability and by alcohol experts about abuse.
A former fraternity president and international business student who plans to make insurance his career, Losciale said he was tough on the issue because ''I decided I didn't want $20.5 million in liability on my shoulders." He was referring to the growing number of lawsuits in which those who condone excessive drinking have been found liable for injuries.
Both Sharp and Losciale said steps could be taken to alleviate some alcohol problems.
Losciale believes a shortage of campus housing is a key contributor to complaints about drinking on campus. Because 2,000 of the school's 6,000 students live off campus in apartments, much of the partying takes place in homes rented by students in the community. The rowdy parties and traffic congestion that result have raised the ire of residents living in those neighborhoods, primarily in Radnor, Lower Merion and Haverford Townships.
Losciale believes the college should allow the fraternities and sororities to build their own houses - thus providing residences for the 1,800 students, or 30 percent of the enrollment, who are Greeks.
"It would solve the housing crunch, clean up the problems and the parties would be contained," he said. "It wouldn't cost the university anything."
But the university has continually said no to that proposal.
Sharp said she did not necessarily blame the school for its students' drinking habits, but she believes the school should take a stronger stand against drinking.
"It starts in high school, it doesn't start at Villanova," she said.
Still, being at the university "enhances" social drinking, Sharp said.
"Parents are going to be smelling your breath when you get home," Sharp said, but while the student is at college, "you're on your own."