by Bailey Porter
LV Life Editor
The Rock cannot be seen from miles around like the Supertents, nor can any person pinpoint its origins. But painting this chameleon-like boulder still holds strong as a tradition at the University of La Verne.
What is it about the Rock that has compelled ULV faculty and students to anticipate its next new look or spray-painted message for more than three decades?
The Rock is like the “culturally warm and fuzzy things that are constants in life, that bring back old memories,” said Jay Jones, professor of biology and biochemistry.
The Rock in front of Founders Hall is not the original Rock monument on campus.
A much smaller version was given to the University as a senior gift in 1939 and situated where Davenport Dining Hall now sits.
In 1958 the campus was undergoing major construction and during that time, the Rock was placed in front of Founders, according to “The ULV Trivia Book,” a pamphlet of essential tidbits that can be found in Wilson Library.
But the little Rock, which shrank and eroded from regular burnings, was not bulky enough to sit before Founders’ imposing backdrop.
Before an official decision was ultimately made about possibly replacing the Rock, however, the Rock mysteriously disappeared one night and the current Rock was in place by the following morning, according to the trivia books and Rock lore enthusiasts.
Part of the Rock’s disputed history includes the mysterious fate of the original Rock, and who was responsible for the swap.
Robert Neher, professor of biology, said he remembers being on faculty when the Rock was stolen. He is confident that he knows the general whereabouts of the original Rock’s final resting place.
“It’s probably in front of Miller Hall,” he said. “A lot of building equipment was around at that time and some guys knew how to use it and buried (the Rock) so it can’t be found.”
More controversial than the who or how the Rock came to be is the potential environmental hazards surrounding the monument.
Such concerns, say campus Rock watchers, keep the Rock debate current.
In 1994 a test was conducted of the paint runoff for toxicity levels. The amount of lead found was 2.5 percent, much higher than the limit set by the EPA at the time.
As a solution, a cement apron was poured around the base to stop the paint from reaching the earth.
Jones said the apron has become just a greater surface area for paint since it was built to catch the dripping paint but instead slopes down into the surrounding grass and the apron is usually painted along with the Rock.
Perhaps the history of the Rock and the myths behind the original Rock’s possible fate are enough of a campus tradition and the actual painting of the Rock should stop.
“It’s a matter of balance, valuing tradition or environmental responsibility,” Jones said.
Jones said the Rock is known as a vehicle for communication, but that very rarely are the messages painted on its surface of any merit.
“It is something like scent marking,” Jones said, “where fraternities and sororities are making sure that their scent is the most recent.”
A similar tradition for students was the clearing of the “L” in the local foothills which began in 1919, a practice that was ended when it was realized that the tradition was not environmentally sound.
A new tradition could be started for the Rock that builds off the old tradition of painting the Rock, but is more sensible in terms of the environment, said Jones, who has been advocating a more environmentally conscious tradition for many years.
He proposes leaving the Rock as is but discontinuing the painting.
Instead an aesthetically pleasing bulletin board could be erected near the Rock where students can post messages from politics to poetry and artwork.