Fence tradition too important to become meaningless posting board
Central to any walk across campus, to any discussion of university traditions, and certainly to any admissions tour, is the Fence. The story isn?t always consistent, but everybody knows that it became a tradition at some point in CMU?s illustrious past for groups to paint the Fence with whatever message they found important or interesting.
Over the years, the Fence has seen its share of interesting messages and uses. Ranging from run-of-the-mill to completely bizarre, most anything you might imagine has found its way onto to the Fence. Some have been a bit less orthodox ? who can forget when KGB covered the Fence in astroturf?
The Fence has also been a reminder of what is important in the lives of the student body: On September 11, 2001, the Fence was covered in names of loved ones with unknown fates in the attacks on our country. Out of reverence, no one would paint over it. It was weeks until the student government finally took the plunge and blanked the Fence. Every year since, the Fence has been painted in some memorial fashion.
The rules surrounding the fence are simple, and generally, people do a remarkable job of following them: no painting until midnight; having people guard the fence to ?hold? it; and painting the whole fence, not just a part of it. Unfortunately, even as groups follow the letter of the rules, they all too often completely miss the spirit of them.
The Fence stands as a testament to free speech and the power of expression. Anybody can take it, and any message can go on it. It?s an opportunity to be heard; it?s the fastest way to get a message to the community.
These messages, though, have become weaker and weaker through the years. Unlike in the past, the Fence has become more of a tag board than anything else: If you look at it today, you?ll see nothing more than a statement of presence from (insert organization here). While anybody can recall countless fraternity pledge classes plastering their names on the fence, how often is there a politically motivated message there?
How often does someone use the Fence to complain about dining, or to write a ?Happy Birthday? message on it? How often has the Fence actually sparked insightful controversy?
Kudos to organizations that promote worthwhile events, that use the fence to benefit the entire community. Habitat for Humanity?s ?Framing @ The Fence? is a great example; not only do they take advantage of the Fence?s central location and great visibility, they also provide an opportunity for everybody who passes by to get involved with their work in building affordable housing.
In recent times, the Fence has seen an unfortunate transformation from impromptu messaging opportunity to formally organized logistical nightmare. Organizations can no longer just ?take the Fence?; complicated schemes of organized handoffs are now necessary to make sure that only one group has it at a time. Favors and kickbacks have created a near ?auction? atmosphere; instead of going to whoever happens to walk by, the Fence is now open only to the highest bidder.
It?s completely unnecessary to take the Fence, paint it once, and make sure the entire campus sees your name for an entire week. It?s time for the Fence to return to what it should be: the one place on campus where everybody can say something worth saying.