Free Expression Space Calls for Student Support

Free Expression Space Calls for Student Support

UCSD students don’t usually get riled up about much, but when we returned to school in the fall to find Graffiti Hall covered with monochrome grey paint instead of the usual explosion of colors, the student body made it clear they were livid.

Graffiti Hall was possibly the only place for pure expression on our stoic campus (not to mention a great venue for hooking up) and with its disappearance, we need to find a way to get a new one. A.S. Council’s referendum on the matter, which has been pushed back to the spring quarter general election, would merely show the administration that we do want our space back, but makes no actual binding promise for change. Under these conditions, students will need to be proactive if they want to see a free expression space return to campus.

At UCSD, Graffiti Hall was one of the only icons of subversive counterculture, and its original location was ideal — an out-of-the-way nook discreetly tucked into Mandeville Center. The series of stairwells is seemingly useless for any other purpose besides storage, but for years, students used them to express themselves and connect with a community. Graffiti Hall quickly became an important symbol of creativity on our campus.

The old location added an added wonderment to the first time a new student stumbled upon the labyrinthine maze halls. We currently seem to have no such luck with the possible replacements. Potential locations for the new space include the “hump,” an outdoor grassy area located behind the Old Student Center, or the nearby grove of eucalyptus trees.

Though these replacements sound less than stellar, the old space was riddled with safety concerns that make reinstating it unfeasible. Administrators were justifiably concerned that the previous confined space was full of dangerous paint fumes and other toxins. Combined with the lack of any kind of surveillance, Graffiti Hall had been sketchy at night and a tough sell for any administrator to support.

Last Thursday, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life Gary Ratcliff told the UCSD Guardian that as a program not administered by the university, Graffiti Hall had a “certain appeal that you can’t replicate in a program that is officially run by the A.S. [Council] or the Student Center.”

Ratcliff is right that the former Graffiti Hall had a certain rebel-chic charm. But it would be irresponsible to create a new free expression area that jeopardizes safety of visitors or imposes an arguably hostile environment for other groups within the campus community.

If students pass the non-binding referendum next month (as they should), student leaders and torchbearers for the original hall should help create the new space that doesn’t endanger passers-byers and the administration should, as they did in the past, turn a blind eye to allow free expression. After all, UCSD should jump at any opportunity for a little more artistic vibe on campus.

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