By Elina Shapiro Staff Reporter
As leaves begin to fall and birch trees become bare, UMF’s campus may start to look a little dreary, so Justin Cochran has an idea for how to brighten and unite the campus – a community graffiti wall.
Cochran, a first year transfer student and Secondary Science Education major, is hoping to work with administration to start up a graffiti wall somewhere on campus by spring 2019 where students, faculty, and staff could participate.
“It’s a constantly evolving message,” said Cochran. “Someone will have to paint over someone else’s work. It will eventually happen and I want people to feel encouraged and feel okay doing that, you know, because we want this to constantly evolve.”
Shawn Russell, an admissions counselor who introduces prospective students to the UMF campus, thinks that having a wall where everyone could participate would strengthen the UMF community.
“I think it’s really cool that it would be a collaboration between the staff and students,” said Russell. “It would be a really good way to show our students’ and staffs’ creativity that we have ‘cause sometimes it’s really hard to show that in a meaningful way.”
Cochran said that there would have to be a lot of discussion about what would be allowed, and what wouldn’t; and they hope to have a balanced committee to make these decisions. Ideally, the committee would be made up of students, staff, administration and people in facilities so all angles of campus would be represented.
Cochran is hoping that this wall will promote collaboration even when controversial topics come up. “I think the thing is that we have to make sure that when something decisive comes up that we turn it into a conversation,” said Cochran. “We don’t try to quell the conversation, we try to steer the conversation in a healthy direction.”
Gustavo Aguilar, Associate Professor of Experimental Performance and Art Division Chair, thought a committee would be a good idea to decide what is allowed and what will be taken down.
“There’s that fine line between hate and censorship, when someone crosses that line,” said Aguilar. “We always have to be aware of the fine spaces so we don’t become stuck into an ideology of what’s right or wrong but actually be able to have those debates, which is really what freedom is about, to be able to have those debates.”
With that in mind, however, Cochran said that there would be some guidelines. “To start, you let it be a place. You let it be a graffiti space. You remind students that this is part of college property so any sort of college rules apply,” said Cochran. “There are certain things as our school dictates, we can’t put up, but that doesn’t limit everybody’s creativity; it just reins it in a little bit to make it a nicer thing for everybody.”
Cochran hopes that this graffiti wall might lift some spirits as the ground turns white and temperatures drop. “Right now the campus looks beautiful and that’s great; we have fall; we have leaves changing; it’s so colorful right now,” said Cochran. “But looking at winter coming up, we’re not going to have any color, it’s going to be red brick buildings, white buildings, and snow, and that’s entirely boring and it’s just drudgery to have to walk past that every day.”
Russell also agrees that the graffiti wall would be especially beneficial to the community in the winter. “I think it would be a really positive thing, especially in the winter time, when you know, students are huddled up in their dorm rooms,” said Russell, looking out the window at the pouring rain. “…They could go down there and…do whatever they want with the graffiti wall and make something fun out of it, it would be a good time for those kids who maybe aren’t involved in winter sports or aren’t involved in athletics.”
This idea is still in its beginning stages, and in the coming weeks, Cochran will be talking to more professors, and people in administration about this possible plan. For now, they have a change.org petition to get support for this wall, which has over 30 supporters. The link for the petition is: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-maine-farmington-get-umf-administration-to-allow-a-graffiti-wall-on-campus