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Wall sparks controversy, conversation

STEVEN SOLOWAY/Arizona Daily Wildcat
A student gazes at the offensive material written on "The Writing on the Wall Project" yesterday afternoon on the Mall.
By Monica Warren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
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Reactions to the Writing on the Wall Project on the Mall have been as varied as the bricks that support it.

With reactions ranging from sad to angry to understanding, volunteers say UA students have been very responsive to the wall and its goals.

"A lot of people think it's interesting and eye-opening," said Valencia Patterson, a pre-business junior and student volunteer at the wall. "Mostly what I've gotten are stares."

The 37-foot wall was built as a kickoff to the UA's first annual diversity day, which will be held tomorrow. Blocks with words and phrases like "The Holocaust never happened," "Muslims=terrorists" and "White trash" were made to illustrate the stereotypes that build barriers between people.

"There have been people who were riding on their bikes who would stop and get mad," said Paty Gonzalez, bilingual education junior and public relations vice president of the Residence Hall Association who was also volunteering at the wall.

Some students who saw the wall were offended by its strong content.

Chemistry sophomore Dominique Trujillo was upset by the wall and said he would rather see something positive and inspirational while walking across campus.

"I don't think it's necessary," he said of the wall. "It's sort of trashy to have it on campus."

"I understand the point, but it is very offensive," said biochemistry freshman Alex Vlahopoulos. "Some of the things it says aren't appropriate anywhere."

Many people who saw the wall said, while shocking, it gets its point across very clearly.

"Unfortunately, all these are things that people have thought or still think," said Marc Viscardi, a senior majoring in journalism and creative writing. He said that some of the comments on the wall "are so ridiculous that it's sad to think that people actually think that."

"Initially when I looked at the wall, I was shocked," said Suesan Jacobs, chemistry and pre-business junior. "When I read some of the things, I couldn't believe they were actually up there."

She said that some of the terms and phrases on the wall were new to her and that she had never heard them used in a derogatory way before.

"Going to UA, I wouldn't expect this," Jacobs said. "I didn't know that discrimination was such a big issue that they would need to have something like this."

"There are things you would never think would be offensive to someone," said Sara Thomas, RHA vice president of programming. "The point is to bring awareness that this is still happening and to bring the wall down."

Binders placed in front of the wall carry explanations of each brick written by its artist.

There is also a book welcoming comments from viewers.

The brick Gonzalez made says, "This is America. Learn English." She says that is a common stereotype that she faces studying bilingual education.

"America is made up of all different people and all different languages," Gonzalez said. "Just because we're here doesn't mean we should speak only English."

The wall will be on the Mall between Old Main and the Student Union Memorial Center until 10 a.m. tomorrow.

The entire university community is then invited to help tear down the wall in a ceremony led by Vice President and Senior Associate to the President Edith Auslander with an address from President Peter Likins.

Thomas said she hopes that there are a lot of people who come help tear down the wall.

"If there are, they'll be able to see they're all together in this, that they're not alone in feeling like this, and that these things still happen," she said.

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