Intellectual musings on the walls


“What is your favourite part of UVic?”

I have been asked this question countless times. While one answer has always popped into my head straight away, I have always been too afraid of being persecuted as an unappreciative student to say it. A university is supposed to simply be a learning institution, and I’ve never wanted to discredit UVic’s educational merit.  So I mutter something like, “Oh, you know, the professors are great, classmates are friendly, we used to have bunnies, etc., etc.”

What I actually want to say is, “The graffiti.” Never have I come to a location that has such witty, inspirational and occasionally downright strange writing on the walls. Done are the days of high school graffiti, full of derogatory or sex-centric comments. Even when there are such statements in the hallways or bathrooms of UVic, the authors critique themselves. “Megan is a sex goddess” features its own minor apology for the use of the gendered term: “Sorry, still living in the ‘70s sometimes with my gender-specific language errors.”

In fact, I wouldn’t even call the wall-scribblings at UVic graffiti. They are glimpses into the minds of students — glimpses that show the intelligence of the student body. After spending countless hours studying in the library, I usually walk around the building to forget my work and absorb the comments. Meandering to the windows on the third floor to look at the desired outside world one day, I found another scribble: “Everyone’s a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its life believing it is stupid – Einstein.”

The neat lettering made me wonder about this nonchalant scribe. Wanting to take a break from the stress of researching and reading, as I had done, the student shared this inspirational idea with others. I felt a sort of kinship with the student as I walked back to my place of study, and therefore felt a little less gloomy about my upcoming essay.

Whole dialogues have taken place in written form on the walls of the women’s bathroom in the basement of McPherson Library. People supporting each other through hard times, strangers conversing about religion and politics, and even bookworms listing their favourite books. The second stall on the left harboured an amateur Ebert before last year’s tragic repainting: “Toy Story 2 was OK.” Not all the graffiti is so thoughtful, but students need a way to vent, and writing an apathetic review of a children’s movie is simply one way.

I especially like coming across old graffiti, untouched and unchanged throughout the years. Sitting underneath a stairwell on the third floor of the library, I found this: “This is the best place to sit in the library ’73.” One person was sitting here almost 40 years ago. Who were they? What did they look like? Where are they now? At UVic, nothing remains of the person except for their little note. It’s almost as if they have been forgotten by history, but a small fragment of memory remains for those who can find it. I write, looking over my shoulder to make sure no one is watching. “Agreed! ’12” A little piece of me has been added to the UVic bookshelf, waiting to be discovered by the next idle flâneur.