I attended Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia for undergrad. Hollins is a women’s college and has less than a 1,000 undergrad; therefore, there are few that know of it. Those that do, usually have heard of some of our more interesting traditions. I don’t know if its a same-sex college thing or if its because its a small, liberal arts school, but Hollins has a number of quirky events that outsiders often don’t just “get.”
The biggest annual event is Tinker Day. On a surprise day in October, classes are canceled and students, faculty, and staff hike Tinker Mountain attired in zany costumes for songs, skits and a traditional picnic of fried chicken and Tinker Cake. Hollins has observed Tinker Day since the 1880s. I participated 3 of my 4 years there, my senior year leading the students up the mountain with the “Spirit Stick” as I was the chair of the Athletic Association.
We don’t have Greek Life at all (we’re just one big Sorority!) but Ring Night ends up providing a way for students to be “initiated” into the sisterhood. During Ring Night (which has evolved into 3 days), seniors secretly adopt junior ring sisters. The juniors participate in skits and other silly antics in hopes of earning their rings and discovering who their “sisters” are.
My favorite tradition was painting The Rock. Located on the lawn outside the Dana Science Building, The Rock is one of the first things you see as you come onto campus. Only Hollins Seniors are allowed to paint it (although if you are with a Senior, you may help paint) and its used to spray paint colorful messages to congratulate, to celebrate, and to speak out on issues.
Most of my messages on The Rock were about the softball team or birthday wishes. However, in the spring of my senior year, I spray painted a message that created a small stir on campus and I did it “illegally.”
It was the night of the Senior Art History Symposium, the culmination of my 4 years at Hollins. My boyfriend at the time and his best friend had come up from North Carolina to support me and afterwards, we went out to celebrate. Coming back on campus, only slightly inebriated, I got the idea to paint The Rock. My friend Jessica was with us but as she was a freshman, I was the only senior in our little group. Furthermore, no one but Hollins Students can paint The Rock. And to even more detriment, nothing “inflammatory” is allowed on The Rock. Nevertheless, we came up with the (genius) idea to spray paint “Show Me Your Boobs” on The Rock. In a fog of green and white, all four of us participated in painting, twice having to run and hide behind trees to escape the eyes of bypassing cars.
I realize that this really doesn’t seem that shocking, but you don’t know Hollins. The disclaimer is that I truly love Hollins and am so glad that I spent four years of my life there. It prepared me for real life in a way that many other colleges would not be able to and I even enjoyed its wackiness from time to time. However, the student body as a whole was steeped in liberalism and could, from time to time, lose themselves in idealism.
The next morning I attended my Feminism in Art History class. At the beginning of each class, we would often start with a discussion of current events related to the class topic. I was eager to hear if any of my classmates would have anything to say about the message on The Rock. For whatever reason, I assumed that they would recognize “Show me your boobs” as the rallying cry from every frat boy standing on a hotel balcony during spring break and take offense. Instead, the conversation that entailed was about censorship.
Apparently overnight, campus security took it upon themselves to mark out “boobs.” Rather than a conversation about being objectified, my classmates were talking about freedom of speech. Halfway through this long discussion, I realized they were, of course, assuming it had been done by one of them, a fellow woman celebrating the female body. I thought about asking my classmates if they would feel differently if the message had been written by men, but I quickly dismissed the thought. I already knew the answer and I didn’t want anyone to suspect that I was involved.
So, even though I was allowed to write on The Rock, I count this as graffiti because both who was involved and the nature of the message was not allowed.
Seem like a stretch? At least its a good story. What graffiti have you done? Wrote on a desk or suggested a friend’s number for a good time in a bathroom stall?