Lack of Rock rules creates disputes, mystique

Ketul Patel

Prospective students are sure to hear about painting The Rock when they take a tour of Northwestern. Sitting in the middle of one of the high-traffic spots on campus, The Rock is often the most visible part of student groups’ publicity efforts.

But although The Rock is constantly used, the rules for painting it are unwritten and hazy.

Traditionally, student groups guard The Rock during the day before painting it at night. After decorating it, groups must then guard The Rock at all hours to prevent others from repainting it.

The lack of codified rules and the need to constantly guard The Rock can sometimes create tension between student groups. Such a situation arose last week when Students for Israel and the Polish American Student Alliance (PASA) both chose the same night to paint The Rock.

Students for Israel wanted to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day with a Rock-painting party the night of May 2.

The holiday is observed from sundown to sundown and is set according to the Jewish rather than the Julian calender, said Weinberg junior Ilya Trakhtenberg, one of the group’s co-presidents.

PASA wanted to paint The Rock that same night to celebrate Polish Constitution Day, which is on May 3.

Members of Students for Israel began guarding The Rock at 5 a.m. on May 2, Trakhtenberg said. He said the group could not find anyone to guard the Rock from about 9 to 11 a.m.

When he came back he found members of PASA guarding the rock, he said.

“We obviously had conflicts, so I negotiated with them,” Trakhtenberg said. “We made a deal. We would paint The Rock that night and then guard The Rock until 2 p.m. the next day for them.”

That night, Students for Israel had their Rock-painting party and then at about 3:30 a.m. They returned at 8 a.m. to guard The Rock again, but it had been repainted with the Polish flag, Trakhtenberg said.

“I personally was very taken aback,” he said. “(But) I couldn’t do anything about it because we didn’t have a written contract.”

PASA President Bartek Dajnowski, a Weinberg senior, said PASA needed The Rock on May 3 because student groups from other Chicago-area universities were coming to take pictures there that day.

PASA members began guarding The Rock at 9 a.m. on May 2, Dajnowski said. He said the decision to turn over The Rock was made without his approval.

“They didn’t have anybody guarding it, so we painted over it,” Dajnowski said. “Doing it on the night of May 3 would have had no point because we had to have it for the day of May 3. It’s like doing New Year’s one day later.”

Despite the problems, Trakhtenberg said he does not think there should be written rules for painting The Rock.

“What makes The Rock so special is that it’s student-run,” he said. “It’s social in nature; it’s not politicized. The painting being unregulated is kind of what makes it cool.”

Student groups only have to reserve The Rock if they want to use food to publicize an event, not if they just want to paint it, according to the Events Planning Office Web site.

PASA has painted The Rock for Polish Constitution Day for the past three or four years but it has not encountered a similar problem, Dajnowski said.

He said he does not bear ill will toward Students for Israel.

“I wasn’t doing this to spite any organization,” he said. “According to the rules, you are supposed to guard The Rock all night. When we do it we’re there 24/7, as it should be.”

Members of NU’s Relay for Life guarded The Rock Tuesday. Weinberg junior Shannon Schneeman and McCormick senior John J. Round IV were there to reserve it.

“It’s an underused medium for promoting pressing issues in Northwestern society to the masses,” Round said.

Other groups choose not to paint The Rock but still use the area to publicize their events.

The Dolphin Show, a student-produced musical at NU, used the area around The Rock to advertise for their January show.

Communication junior Abra Chusid, a co-producer, said it was too cold to paint and guard The Rock at night.

“We’re always interested in doing it,” she said. “But our show is in January so it’s pretty hard to get people to sit out and guard The Rock, especially at two in the morning.”

Instead of painting The Rock, the organization handed out pizza there the week of the show.

Co-producer Whitney Frick, a Weinberg senior, organized the event. She said she had to sign up at the Events Planning Office to make sure theirs was the only student group publicizing at The Rock.

“The Rock is a gathering place in a central location,” Frick said. “It’s also a symbol of student life. As a student group, we wanted to show people that we were a part of that student life.”

Reach Ketul Patel at [email protected]