There’s a rock alongside a road on campus here, right next to the river, that was given to Michigan State University as the senior class gift back in 1873. On campus, it’s known as The Rock, proving either that simpler is better or that there’s a historical lack of creativity in naming things on campus. Almost every night, someone paints the rock. The tradition is that anyone can paint it, but if you don’t guard it all night, someone else can come along and paint over it.
I’ve painted it twice, though both times I was more of an accessory to the painting rather than the painter itself: once as part of a soccer team and once as a member of the marching band.
It’s rare for the same message to be left on The Rock two days running, and it’s become something of a campus tradition. Painting The Rock always makes the unofficial lists of the things you should do while at MSU, and there’s never a shortage of people willing to go, buy spray paint, then cover the rock with a new set of paint. (As an aside, there’s so much paint on that rock that no one knows how big it actually is.)
I teach a freshman writing course at MSU now, and I’ve focused my course on new media. I’m trying to get my students to understand that all forms of communication are valid and valuable, that Facebook posts and text messages should be just as thought out as formal texts, that it all matters. My students came in the first day not understanding themselves as creators of texts—that was what I did, what other writers did—and as they leave my class this week, this is the one lesson I want them to remember the most. It all counts. Read more »