By Jillian Festa
The Green Lawn Wall — the College community message board located outside the Brower Student Center — was created as a means for campus organizations to raise awareness for current issues or events in a creative, interactive fashion. The most recent display, a “Black Lives Matter” mural, was painted anonymously in response to the controversial grand jury outcomes in Ferguson, Mo. and Staten Island, Ny. The wall included paintings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and other African Americans who were killed in controversial altercations.
Despite student efforts to preserve the mural, it was repainted in early January to comply with the newly official reservation policy regarding use of “the wall.”
According to the new official reservation policy, student groups who wish to utilize the wall must now email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reservation blocks begin on a Tuesday and extend through Thursday of the following week, no extensions allowed. There is limited availability, so it is advantageous to plan ahead to ensure acceptance of time-sensitive material. The design of the artwork must be submitted to the Office of Student Activities for approval. It must comply with College policy and federal, state or local law and must not include any trademarked or copyrighted materials. The name of the sponsoring organization must be clearly displayed on the mural — anonymity and failure to complete the reservation requirements may be deemed as vandalism. In addition, latex-based paint is the only material allowed on the wall. Complete information on the policy can be found on the College’s website.
The policy change, though harmless to most students, was met with some hostility.
“Frankly, the new reservation policy is more or less meaningless,” freshman economics major Jonatan Moukh said. “If the ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural were painted today, a more powerful message would have been broadcast, the core of which is humanitarian concern and its ability to transcend certain rule.”
In response to the “Black Lives Matter” mural, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Angela Lauer Chong wrote the following in an email sent to its creators earlier this month: “The (‘Black Lives Matter’ mural) on the ‘wall’ was created after it was erected, but before the reservation policy and process was finalized and published, therefore it has remained on the wall to this present day. However, to make this important medium available for its intended purpose, the wall will be painted over this week to ready the medium for groups to reserve this spring.”
Despite Chong’s sentiments, some students — including Moukh — are still disappointed.
“It is not astonishing, but rather shameful to see the administration react with an amended reservation guideline rather than an amended attitude,” Moukh said, “an outlook showcasing solidarity both with those affected by the misfortune’s broad trajectory and the students who bother to care, to remain informed, to enact change.”
However, the “Black Lives Matter” message will continue to be addressed — there will be an open forum on Wednesday, Feb. 4 from 11 a.m. to noon in room 210 of the Student Center. According to Chong, the forum will focus on “where TCNJ goes from here..to foster a more inclusive, socially just campus community.”
Chong also noted that key administrators have already confirmed their commitment to this issue. Additionally, there are high-quality photographs of the mural that can be used to produce banners or other reprinted materials so the artwork is preserved in that respect.