These rocks rock: in defense of Sadler’s stepping stones

Since what feels like time immemorial, those slate stepping stones outside the Sadler Center have been the Nickelback of the campus of the College of William and Mary. Drawing the ire of seemingly every student forced to waddle over their misguided existence, the stones seem to serve no purpose other than, maybe, to instill in the student body a love of hopscotch, or to help students practice their puddle-jumping skills for when the rainy season comes. One wonders if they will die out — like purple ketchup or Clippy the Microsoft paperclip — from the campus of the College.

However, encumbrance or no, those dreadful rocks need an ally, a friend, someone to stand up and say, “Yeah, well, I mean, maybe they’re not quite so awful?” Perhaps I’ve been inspired by the upcoming publication of Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman.” Atticus Finch’s admonition that, “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them” (or on them, as the case may be), comes to mind. God-awful stones, I’ll be your Mockingjay.

A quick glance downward provides all the ammunition one needs to defend the metamorphic path: The rocks aren’t red. Are you inside? Go outside. Look around. Remember “The Yellow Wallpaper”? It’s like that, but change the color. Buffeted on all sides by imitation colonial brick and mortar, it’s hard not to remember what Howard Roark said about tradition-worshiping architecture (though we should, admittedly, probably forget a great deal of what Howard Roark said): It’s a copy of a copy of a copy. Where’s the variation?

In her Feb. 12 column, Meredith Ramey praised the accent walls gracing the interior of Earl Gregg Swem Library. While accent walls are certainly an improvement, isn’t it sad that they garner such attention? We’ve gotten to the point where just a different color of paint will elicit compliments. This should be par, not birdie — and the stones are, forgive me, a step in the right direction.

So maybe we, as a student body, should take a step back from our communal, years-long ritual of hate (not that group-hate doesn’t have its place; remember “The Sound of Music Live!”), and recognize the stones for what they are: a misguided first attempt at a more aesthetically diverse campus.

All those stones want to do is throw some grey into the lives of students as they rush from the ground floor of Sadler to the middle floor of Sadler. Is that such a crime? Let’s celebrate innovation, together, as we welcome and encourage a more dynamic, less terracotta, future.

That said, maybe we should think about flipping them long-ways. Just a thought. Get to it, vandals of the night.

Email Zachary Frank at


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