by TYRESE WHEATON
The first week of the semester offers a renewed, populated campus that drips with the hanging sense of anticipation for the upcoming challenges and fun that await. The pathways are buzzing with energy as students are excited to be back, and others look forward to their first year at Mary Washington. The Cedric Rucker University Center is an active hub on campus where students meet new friends and reunite with old ones over Panera coffee and bagels or peruse the many options at the Top of the CRUC. The Monroe Fountain spews nonstop and creates a relaxing walk through campus when passing by, and many students have already swum in the fountain per Mary Wash tradition.
UMW’s spirit rock, which was painted a bold blue with “Welcome home eagles” written in white letters in celebration of the semester’s commencement, looks over Campus Walk from a small hill between Willard Hall and Pollard Hall. This past Wednesday, though, the rock featured another message painted overtop: “CALL ME I’M HORNY” followed by a phone number that was later painted over to obscure it. This addition was far from ideal, especially considering that students were greeted with this vulgar message during their first week of classes.
The message remained on the rock for more than 48 hours until it was repainted to announce the Campus Programming Board’s First Friday event on Jefferson Square.
“I was shocked because I normally see messages about stuff going on campus, but I was more shocked when I saw it still up the next day,” said Adonai Soleto, a sophomore majoring in business administration.
There are very few rules for the spirit rock that are displayed on the UMW SGA website; these include firstly being a student attending the university to be able to paint the rock. Second is using only latex paint on the rock to help prevent damage to vegetation around the rock. It also states to be courteous and allow a 24-hour time period to pass before painting over someone else’s message, and that anything painted on the rock cannot be in violation of the University’s policies. The rock follows the First Amendment, however, and allows clubs of different beliefs to paint the rock with messages they see fit.
UMW campus police didn’t consider the additional message to be defacement because the person who wrote the message didn’t violate any of UMW’s policies. Furthermore, this wasn’t the first time that the rock has caused a few double takes.
At the beginning of the fall semester in 2022, persistent and passionate eagles used the rock to bring attention to Residence Life hiring an RA with Title IX reports against him. The year before, a message questioned President Paino’s ability to stop sexual harassment on campus. And, in 2018, the rock stirred mixed emotions on campus when the UMW Firearms Club promoted a firearm safety and concealed carry permit course, which was repainted over hastily by an anonymous individual after the Parkland shooting in Florida.
The spirit rock was donated to UMW 2001 by a quarry in Culpeper, Va. The rock’s inclusion on campus was inspired from other universities’ locations to show student expression. It is located to the right side of Willard Hall, a freshman dorm, and is situated along Campus Walk near the Monroe Fountain. Ever since it was placed on campus, it has been a way for UMW students to advertise their respective messages, no matter how big or small.
Hundreds of students pass the rock during the day, whether that’s to grab food at different dining locations on campus, visit a friend staying in another dorm or while going to class. Because of this, it’s an effective way to advertise events because it ensures an audience. There are many students who are appreciative of the rock’s announcements.
“The rock tells me things that I can do when I’m bored, or even tells me about clubs that I didn’t even know existed!” said Carl Horkan, a senior majoring in geography.
Kaitlyn Venzen, a sophomore majoring in computer science said, “I feel like the rock is informative, but sometimes I feel like there are pointless messages that need to be filtered out or painted over.”