Following recent controversies surrounding the re-painting of the Spirit Rock, The Blue & Gray Press is calling for the university to provide a place for students to honor the lives and movements that matter to them. UMW needs to provide this place as an alternative location to the Spirit Rock, which is an insufficient place to commemorate the movements closest to student’s hearts. Also, UMW should publicly and permanently state that Black lives matter, and there should be a permanent memorial to victims of white supremacy, including those killed by police.
This issue has come to light because nine months ago the Spirit Rock was painted to commemorate the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition to a BLM message on the front of the rock, the back of the rock displayed the names of Black victims of police brutality. This past week the day inevitably came when the message on the rock was repainted. The rock was changed to advertise the UMW hockey team. Despite the hockey team following the rules of the Spirit Rock, as the rock had been painted with the same message for significantly longer than the 24-hour cursory period, there was still some backlash from students. Some students expressed their outrage that an important BLM message was covered up by a message from a sports team, especially during Black History Month: previously, the Honor Council repainted the front of the rock, but left the names on the side intact. Students were also upset that the hockey team chose to cover up the entire rock, including the list of names on the back, despite not adding any new artwork to the back of the rock.
The BLM message was important, and a place on campus should exist for students to dedicate long-lasting art and messages to movements they care about. That the BLM mural was painted over was in some ways inevitable: The Spirit Rock exists to be painted over and over, and its messages are fleeting.
In summary, UMW needs to create a space for messages like the BLM painting on the rock to shine through. There needs to be a platform on campus for students to express their emotions regarding political movements or tragic events. There needs to be an area where students can create their own art that is not built to change or be painted over