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off the wall

A tour of campus graffiti

photo of graffiti on BCcampus"Set the gearshift of your soul to high gear."

"Roll in neutral."

"Get out of the car and look around, breathe, be!" —blue felt tip, black felt tip, black ball point, respectively; above toilet paper dispenser, east wall of unisex bathroom, Gasson Hall basement

Our tour begins here, in BC's signature campus building. Boston College was founded in 1863, and in its original incarnation sought to educate a small subsection of the population. These entries, recorded in three different hands—the first a deliberate script, the second a barely legible scrawl, the third block lettering in all caps—affirm that the current student body is drawn from a truly diverse pool. The dedicated, the slacker, the hippie all have a place on today's Chestnut Hill.

"John 7:37, 38" —No. 2 pencil; two inches high; Lyons Hall stairwell north, halfway toward the basement landing

The passage from the gospel reads in part, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me." This was likely intended as an advertisement for the Pub Series held in the Rat, the dining hall in the basement of Lyons. A popular campus event, the Pub Series features performances by BC bands at which students may consume as many as two alcoholic beverages, provided they first secure letters of permission from their parents, a doctor, and the dean of Arts and Sciences.

"The Grout Gatsby. Grout Expectations. The Grout Barrier Reef. Ringling Brothers, the Groutest Show on Earth. Alexander the Grout. The Grout Wall of China." —black ball point, pencil; two authors; printed on the grout between the tiles above the far right urinal, men's bathroom, Bapst Library basement

For many, the pillared entranceway to the Bapst Library represents everything higher education should stand for. The sweeping arches and majestic stained glass call to mind Europe's cathedrals and all that is dignified and pure in scholarship. It is no wonder, then, that Bapst graffiti is of the highest order, firmly grounded in the Western canon.

"College would be great if it wasn't for school" —etched in wood, one-inch block print; sixth study carrel from the stairwell, O'Neill Library fourth floor

"Finals = bad. Drinking = good." —black felt tip on table; east side near the LB stack, O'Neill first floor

In contrast to Bapst, O'Neill's dim lighting, cramped shelves, and bad carpeting call to mind how the other half lives. It is perhaps to be expected, then, that the graffiti here is the worst of the genre: trite, unambitious, and possessed of an unhealthy preoccupation with the names and phone numbers of those students previously demonstrating a commitment to having a good time. Indeed, a student's choice of library carries profound implications for all future endeavors.

"A pox be upon this house" —bleach and lemon juice [?], 12-inch letters; next to each door, Gasson Hall north façade

Barely visible unless the rising or setting sun glances upon them, these words, legend tells us, were produced in the early 1970s by an ROTC cadet angered at the administration's decision to oust the officer-training program from campus. The anonymous student has gone, the program was subsequently reinstated, and, throughout, this unauthorized Gasson accessory has remained. Ever to excel, indeed.

For the record: On the fourth floor of Devlin Hall, where BC stores its Fine Artists, there is no graffiti. One may assume students here possess other canvasses upon which to display the products of their creativity. Fulton Hall, home to finance and accounting majors in the Carroll School of Management, is likewise unsullied, though the reason for this is not known.

Kilian Betlach '02

Kilian Betlach majored in philosophy and psychology and is currently a member of Teach for America.

Photo: Cri de coeur: faded, but not forgotten

Photo by Lee Pellegrini

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