Stonehill Students Turn Obscene Graffiti Into Positive Message
January 30, 2012
by Justin Graeber
Sarah LaFleur passes by the boulder just off a walkway behind the Stonehill College dining hall daily.
The 5-foot tall rock had long carried the positive graffiti message: "Be Free to Be You."
Until Monday, when she was shocked to see vulgar drawings and words scribbled over the rock, slightly obscured by new-fallen snow.
It struck her as more than a harmless prank, in particular because the new images seemed to deliberately cover up the upbeat message on the rock for years.
"This was different," she said.
The rock and the old message had been defaced with sexually obscene graffiti and a word demeaning to women.
"Some of the (existing) words were crossed out," said Kelly Albino, who believes the old message was at least part of the reason vandals picked that boulder.
So a group of students decided to turn the incident into a positive message for the college community.
On Tuesday night, the two women and about 15 others gathered at the rock. Using tape, paint and planks of wood, they transformed the boulder into a mock construction site. They left messages on the planks and secured them to the boulder with the yellow "caution" tape.
"This rock was used as a symbol of humiliation, agression (sic) and sexual violence," they wrote on one plank. "We are reclaiming it as a symbol of peace."
Blank space was left on the boards for students to contribute their own thoughts.
"We invited other students to envision a more just and compassionate Stonehill," LaFleur said. "We don't want a message from a very small group of Stonehill students to speak for the college."
The two women are co-directors of the Moore Center for Gender Equity at Stonehill. The organization used to be called the "women's center," but the name was changed to broaden the group's message.
The two reported the vulgar graffiti to a supportive college administration on Tuesday.
"There's been a lot of discussion between us and the administration about how we can move forward together," said Albino.
There has been a positive response, particularly on the group's Facebook page, which has a before-and-after slide show of the graffiti and subsequent messages. "It has been a catalyst for a different conversation," LaFleur said.
Both women are seniors. Albino is from Hudson and LaFleur is from Camden, Maine.
On Monday, the Student Government Association is asking students to wear T-shirts, distributed last fall, with the message: "I am not a bystander."
"I think it sends a very particular message about what it is OK to be at Stonehill and what it is not OK to be," said LaFleur.
A Stonehill spokesman said campus police are looking into the vandalism but have not identified any suspects.
"We're still investigating the issue and we take it very seriously," said Stonehill spokesman Martin McGovern.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.