by Skye Donaldson
Very early on a crisp, fall morning the silhouette of a massive object can be seen in the distance masked by the fog that hangs slightly above the ground. Rochester College’s campus is simple and unassuming, nothing ever takes an unsuspecting visitor by surprise. Except for this immense profile of an object, seemingly not movable by human hands.
Nearing closer to this thing, the mystery of its identity soon fades as the mystery of what it represents takes center stage. A rock as large as a midsize Mini Cooper sits at the center of campus, painted completely Shrek green.
With the words “It’s All Ogre Now” and Shrek’s face stenciled on the front of the rock, and the famous phrase “This is my swamp!” lining the back, proponents of the rock could only guess who had painted their rock without explicit permission from administration.
In light of the “Shrek is Love, Shrek is Life” meme popular in the fall of 2014, this tag was actually quite appropriate and light-heartedly funny. The sentiment, however, was not shared by administration.
By noon of the crisp fall morning, the Shrek green and its message was covered forever.
The Want of Student Expression
One of the taggers of the rock (whose name will be omitted for the sake of mystery) just graduated from Rochester College. “We tagged the Rock because we thought it would just be a fun way to express ourselves. It was adventurous and it felt rebellious even though there really was no practical harm in the action,” one tagger said, indicating that the paint job was in fact a nod to the meme.
The second tagger (whose name will also be omitted) also graduated in April, leaving behind the story of a successful joke. “Luckily security cameras didn’t work back then. We wanted to tag it because it was the end of Pledge Week and we thought the saying 'it’s all ogre now' would be fitting, because the stress Pledge Week caused was finally done with,” the second tagger said.
Though tagging the rock was done in good fun, there was a reason behind the act. “It should be open for people to paint at any time. We shouldn’t have to ask permission. It should be used for rival teams to paint and for us to advertise or decorate freely,” the second tagger said. “I think it would really bring our school closer together in terms of protecting our turf. I also just think it’s exciting when we wake up and somebody painted the rock overnight. People could even write on it for their friends birthdays.”
The question remains — how did that rock get to the center of campus?
The Beginning of an Era
Former RC campus minister and current chaplain of Pepperdine University, Sara Barton, arranged for the rock to be brought to campus. “It was my idea to get the rock on campus when I was the campus minister. I thought it would be a good tradition to have a rock like I had seen on Pepperdine University’s campus,” Barton said.
Barton was not mistaken. Since its first paint job in 2012, the Rock has been the sight of spirit, welcome signs and advertisements. It is usually painted for Crimson Days, Welcome Week, class reunions, theatrical plays, Celebration and Pledge Week.
The Rock is painted in good company. Pepperdine University’s rock even has a form that must be filled out digitally before it can be painted. Student organizations are given guidelines such as “Structures and decorations must be fully contained within the sand/dirt perimeter surrounding the rock.” (Pepperdine) The request form also mentions another spirit statue, Dolores, that is not to be painted and merely admired by the student body.
Lipscomb University also has Its version of the Rock in the shape of a bison. Anyone on Lipscomb's campus can paint the bison. Where Pepperdine and Rochester give permission to students to paint their respective rocks, the bison serves as a vessel of the student voice and can be painted freely. In the past the bison has been painted to showcase local youth ministries, LU spirit, the #lovewins movement, the band Relient K, and even, Star Wars.
RC Really Rocks
Junior Social Work major Kirsten Rivard shares the puzzlement of most students as to how the Rock made its way onto RC's campus. “My thought when I first saw the Rock was how well it was painted, but then I noticed how large the rock actually was. It’s taller than I am,” Rivard said.
Given the Rock’s hefty size, extra help was needed to bring the rock to campus. John Gresham, friend of RC, “was the donor who made it all happen,” Barton said. The rock was quite expensive to find and move. It was specially chosen for its spot on campus and was placed with heavy equipment.
Some Memorable — And Not So Memorable — Tags
Candace Cain, former RC dean of students, said her most memorable tag was when Terrill Hall, former assistant dean of students, was leaving RC. "Hall was very loved by the students," she said.
On a very few occasions, students have tagged the rock with inappropriate depictions. "One time the rock was painted with what students told me was a a disrespectful and lewd phrase. Laura Corp, who was Student Body president at the time, actually went and painted it. We did search the camera footage, but couldn't tell under the cover of night who it was," Cain said.
Despite the occasional misuse of the Rock, Cain thinks it is an important symbol on campus. "The rock gives expression to students who are visual and want to make statements. Sometimes it allows students to express their passion and what is currently important to them. It also allows them to promote things such as their club or an event."
Student life is enriched by the rock. Every new paint job signifies the school year is moving on and gives students a change of scenery that they can look forward to. It provides a place for art and good vibes that resonate all throughout campus.
Though the Rock hasn’t been here all that long, it has cemented itself in RC student life and won’t be moving from its spot in the center of campus any time soon.