Erasing Stall Graffiti Is Like Burning Shakespearian Sonnets

James Edmonds | Staff Writer

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“The wall he leaned against was crowded with an illiterate testament to the barrenness of the heart. There loneliness scribbled a lewd invitation; desire chalked out a vulgar sketch; frustrate tenderness turned cruel with mockery; ungiven love became a feverish obscenity.” That’s an excerpt from John Clellon Holmes’ Go about bathroom graffiti discovered by the main character. While I don’t think bathroom graffiti is that extreme in the stalls of UNCW, the quote is still applicable.

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. That allows for complete honesty, and the free expression of “ungiven love,” “loneliness,” or “frustrate tenderness turned cruel with mockery.”

That’s one reason why I don’t think that the bathroom graffiti should be cleaned. It really is as if many, perhaps hundreds, of UNCW’s students spent time writing down honest thoughts only to have their work crumpled up and thrown away. Academia is supposed to be about preserving the thoughts of scholars rather than making sure that all thoughts are erased off the bathroom stalls so as to maintain a neat appearance.

Another reason the bathroom stall graffiti should be kept around is because of the sheer entertainment value. 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. Some personal favorites are the “poop log”, the “gramer nazi” thread, and the “vague message of despair” in gothic letters written right under “the American dream is dead.”

The only arguments for the removal of bathroom graffiti are that the stalls would look more aesthetically pleasing if they remained in their pristine condition, and that the obscenity that inevitably manifests itself doesn’t present a very pleasant image of UNCW. However, clean and aesthetically pleasing stall walls don’t entertain anyone while they are relieving themselves, and the obscenity that finds its way onto the stall is an honest depiction of the thoughts of UNCW students. For those reasons, I request that the graffiti not be cleaned off the stall walls anymore.