BSC Folklore

SAE Painted Lions

SAE Painted Lions

The SAE house on the old fraternity row had two stone lion statues in the front yard. Other fraternities would try to paint the lions their fraternity's colors without getting caught. The SAE house on the new row has two lion statues as well, but it seems they have not yet been painted by other fraternities

Source: Collected from alumni of the early 1990s by Allison Schuver, January '07.

Commentary:
It seems that paint job pranks are extremely popular across college campuses. Whether it's a rock, wall, fence, bridge, water tower or statue, most campuses have a central object that is painted over and over again. Although the SAE lion statues are central to the old row and not the entire campus, they embody the same tradition. As with most paint jobs, the lions were painted in the middle of the night so the students could avoid getting caught. Eastern Michigan has a rock on campus that is painted more than 5,500 times each year. When Northwestern removed its frequently painted rock from campus, students built a new one out of paper mâché to take its place. These paint pranks allow students to leave their mark on campus as a sign of domination. For example, if Sigma Nu painted the lions, their colors would prove their dominance over the row until another fraternity painted their colors.

Complete Commentary:
By Allison Schuver

It seems that paint jobs are extremely popular across college campuses. Whether it's a rock, wall, fence, bridge, water tower or statue, most campuses have a central object that is painted over and over again. Although the SAE lion statues are central to the old row and not the entire campus, they embody the same tradition. As with most paint jobs, the lions were painted in the middle of the night so the students could avoid getting caught. Eastern Michigan has a rock on campus that is painted more than 5,500 times each year. When Northwestern removed its frequently painted rock from campus, students built a new one out of paper mâché to take its place. These paint pranks allow students to leave their mark on campus in a sign of domination. For example, if Sigma Nu painted the lions, their colors would prove their dominance over the row until another fraternity painted their colors.

There is a large amount of folklore that acknowledges the presence of statues on college campuses. Rubbing certain parts are said to bring good luck, and there are also tales of the statues coming to life under certain circumstances. Although mascot statues are often stolen by rival schools, statues are usually unharmed because of their material worth. Rocks prove to be a different matter as they are frequently vandalized by students. Although the stone lions outside of the SAE house are technically statues, they share more traits with campus rocks.

Mars Hill College has long had the tradition of rock painting by Greek organizations, though the rocks are actually off campus on a local highway. After returning to school after a summer break, the campus greeks found that their rocks had been painted over by the state to resemble real rocks. The students were upset that their tradition had been put to a stop, but officials stressed that the rocks were state property. It was actually against the law for students to paint the rocks in the first place. Administration on the campus is trying to develop an on campus location for the tradition of rock painting to continue.

However, a campus prank such as stone painting can sometimes go wrong, as one did very recently in Arizona. Before a big game with their rival school, Arizona State University, some students from the University of Arizona visited the rival school and painted a large red “A” (UA's color) on a butte overlooking the State campus. The common prank of rock painting escalated to something much more serious when officials realized the pranksters painted a rock with American Indian petroglyphs dating back to 1250. The city has already spent thousands of dollars to have experts study the stone to see if it can be restored.

Questions:

  • What would happen if SAEs caught a fraternity painting their lions?
  • How frequently were the lions painted?
  • Were pledges made to risk painting the lions as a part of their pledgeship?
  • Why has the lion painting tradition not continued to the new row?

Bibliography:

  • Bronner, Simon. Piled Higher and Deeper: The Folklore of Campus Life. Little Rock: August House Publishers, 1990.

  • "College Prank May Have Damaged Ancient Tempe Petroglyphs." Examiner.Com 6 Jan. 2007. 30 Jan. 2007.

  • Ogelsby, Chip. "Greek Rock Tradition Painted Over." The Hilltop: Student Newspaper of Mars Hill College 3 May 2004. 30 Jan. 2007.

YOUR THOUGHTS?
Email your comments, corrections, or additions to tcowan@bsc.edu.