Recently, RPI started renovations on the side of one of our main buildings. Scaffolding was put up, along with some sheetrock to protect the passers-by from any construction, effectively building a tunnel. The next morning, there was a little bit of graffiti on the walls, most of it reference to (ahem) really old internet jokes. Then the next morning, there was more graffiti, this time a little more insightful, still some jokes. As the days went by, it was exciting each morning to see what someone else felt compelled to paint on the temporary walls.
RPI is a relatively small campus, but still, like any other school, you get so wrapped up in your majors and classes that you don't get to mingle with the wide diversity that often. I always felt a connection going through that tunnel to the students I never met, or will ever meet. There was some profanity (naturally, the most prominent being a set of boobs) but most of it was just silly and artistic. It was the campus's collective subconscious on display.
Every morning I told myself I had to take a picture of it, especially the portion that said, "The Chamber of Secrets has been opened, enemies of the heir, beware!" because I'm such a sucker for Harry Potter. However, I've never been a huge camera carrier, and the battery is dead, and being the end of the semester I have a lot of other things on my mind. I'd read that the construction was going to go on until November, so I figured I had at least until then to take the pictures.
Last week, the walls were taken down and replaced with wire.
I find it frustrating that harmless fun had to be ended. I understand that the possibility for serious offense created a liability for RPI. If someone had chosen to graffiti the walls with racial slander or other offenseive remarks, RPI could have been in trouble for not doing enough to prevent it. But that had not happened, yet. Could it have? I'm sure. Though we're an intellectual school, I don't doubt we have our fair share of bigots.
But it's hard to not see this as an act of oppression, especially given the student body's already tumultuous relationship with the administration. We already have the impression that our opinion is not respected, and our presence merely tolerated. This just seems like further reinforcement.
I find myself asking, who started this tense standoff? Is the administration truly against us, and truly everything we think it is, or is it something more? Is this a product of our position in life? Is it our age? Is it that people just becoming adults, learning about themselves and their relationship with the world always fight the establishment? Is it that people expect us to be particularly untrustworthy and unpredictable, and we sense that?
Thankfully, my good friend Mike was there when they took the walls down, so he managed to get some pictures before they were gone forever.
Youth is an exciting time, but it's also full of heartache. I understand the older generations are cranky and jaded, but is there any chance we can come out on the other end of our youthful journey unscathed by the same afflictions?
I hope so.
More at Mike's flickr here.