The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Staff Ed: University’s response to spirit rock painting dismisses student concern about sexual harassment on campus

2 min read

Students were met with a repainted spirit rock that addressed President Paino on Monday, Sept. 20

The Blue & Gray Press Editorial Board

On the afternoon of Sept. 22, students received an email written by UMW Police Chief Michael Hall and Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair addressing the recent repainting of the spirit rock. The email response to the repainting was dismissive and did not address student concerns surrounding sexual harassment on campus. Students on campus deserve a more thorough response to these safety concerns, and the University should take action to prevent the recurring instances of stalking, trespassing and sexual harassment.

On the morning of Monday, Sept. 20, many individuals in the UMW community noticed that the spirit rock was painted red with white capital letters reading, “Mr. Paino, how many reports to catch a few predators,” with white tally marks painted on the sides. 

The emailed response should have come from University President Paino himself, as he was the person addressed in the repainted rock. While we recognize that he is busy and has an overwhelming job, one of his biggest priorities should be student safety. 

Our online editors posted on our social media accounts asking for any information about the context of the rock repainting. Multiple students reported that the rock was painted in response to a man repeatedly harassing female students near the HCC. According to a post that was shared with us by multiple students, the man is white, approximately 45 years old, “goes by the name Dan” and “has been reported multiple times.” 

Other students cited feelings of danger due to general safety concerns on campus. Last semester, a different white man repeatedly trespassed, followed female students on campus and attempted to enter Willard Hall. The University did not inform the student body about these occurrences until three days after the first incident, and by then many students had already found out through circulating social media posts. In another instance, an older man shouted a racial slur at a student in a UMW parking lot. Finally, a different man approached students on campus wearing nothing but a white t-shirt.

These safety concerns are not new—they are reoccurring. We are frustrated by the lack of actions taken by the University, and we are tired of being told to download the RAVE Guardian app. Preventative measures need to be taken to protect students; reporting safety concerns should be a last resort. Many of these instances occur because UMW has a public, open campus, and predatory men know that they can find young, vulnerable women here. This issue must be addressed for the safety of our students. 

The Blue & Gray Press is currently working on an upcoming news story about the spirit rock repainting. We stand with all students who are frustrated with the lack of action by the University, as well as anyone who has been targeted by the unwelcome men who lurk around our campus.

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