“Only GOD can judge me! . . . I eat yogurt. . . . Where words fail, music speaks. . . . Sidewalks are just suggestions. . . . You never realize how shallow your life was until you become a mother. . . . Please let us express ourselves.”
In this photo, the bathroom stall at the University of North Carolina Wilmington is overrun with these random statements, and many more. Altogether, they equal a funny, quirky and one-of-a-kind glimpse into the minds and moods of UNCW students.
As James Edmonds, a staff writer for The Seahawk student newspaper at UNCW, argues in a recent op-ed, “The bathroom stalls contain some of the more honest writings of the students on this campus. We do a ton of writing to get through our courses, but all of it is written for someone else with the knowledge that it will be judged. There is no fear of judgment when writing on a bathroom stall because no one will know you wrote it.”
Graffiti, in general, has long been an omnipresent backdrop to many parts of all campuses. The online student outlet NewJourno at the University of Hawaii confirms, “It can be found on buildings, overpasses, sidewalks and even on bathroom stalls. It has existed since ancient times, dating back to the glory days of the Greek and Roman Empires. Is it vandalism or is it art?”
At UNCW, Edmonds is squarely in the art camp, comparing the stall scrawls to Shakespearean sonnets. “[B]athroom stall graffiti should be kept around . . . because of the sheer entertainment value,” he writes. When the graffiti is particularly witty, the few minutes you spend in the restroom provide for a refreshing study break and you can leave feeling ready to hit the books again.”
Beyond its “sheer entertainment value,” graffiti has also been praised as a symbol of free speech and a creative form of promotion and protest. On the stall featured in the photo accompanying Edmonds’s write-up, there are graffiti comments touching on various aspects of religion, politics, the economy and original thought.
For example, addressing the gay marriage debate, there is a drawing of three stick-figure couples holding hands — a man and a woman, two men and two women. Above it, a three-word summation has been scrawled: “Love is love.”
Of course, nearby, there is simply the word poop. It’s a mixed bag.
To that end, the markings have been branded as hate speech, gang signs, vulgar character assassinations and inane scribbles not worth the time, money and manpower required to clean them up.
As an opinion piece in The Daily Villanovan at Philadelphia’s Villanova University contends, “There is a war going on. Outright. Underground. It is an ideological struggle both dormant and resurgent, and ancient and new. In the shadowy corners of classrooms and on the fetid walls of bathroom stalls, it rages on. . . . I see a thousand moronic messages ardently accusing some individual of being a homosexual, professing another person’s ‘love’ for Dan, asserting that Puerto Rico kicks a**. . . . The individuals scribbling all the insipid remarks and quasi-conversations found littering our otherwise beautiful campus need to grow up.”
What do you think? Does campus graffiti deserve a fresh look and greater respect? Or does it need to be painted over, stripped away, and wiped clean?
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