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OPINION: Leave the tunnels alone

OPINION%3A+Leave+the+tunnels+alone
Rian Hughes

App State has, until now, cultivated an essence of mountain-loving, country-enthusiasts and passionate people who reside in Boone. A key motivator for current students to attend was this ambiance, local community and pride of residing in a beautiful space. The potential of this university has been squashed by cash-grab attempts to lure students here at the expense of the locals, current students and the environment. The renovations on the freedom of expression tunnels have shown where the university’s interests lie — and it is not with the students who spend thousands of dollars to attend. 

Chancellor Sheri Everts announced the renovations via her newsletter, with questionable language that discredits the meaning of the expression tunnels.

“The tunnels, which for many years have been dark and covered in graffiti, are on their way to becoming bright, secure pathways that reflect school spirit,” Everts wrote.

The “graffiti,” as Everts called it, is actually students voicing their opinions, sharing their creativity and inspiring one another in artistic means. Graffiti is an expressive means of art, one that App State students have eagerly engaged in since at least 2012. Across the world, it has been a crucial medium that allows for individual self-expression and speaks to the community’s interests. It is hard for someone to understand the culture of a place if they have not truly allowed themselves to learn why these outlets are important to the student body.

Another issue is that the new tunnel designs are ugly and uncreative. The slogans “Today I give my all” and “Roll ‘Neers” are everywhere — from T-shirts to tumblers to the big erected sign next to the Campus Store and Plemmons Student Union. Students do not need these slogans repetitively shoved down their throats every time they walk across campus — if they are valuable to students, it does not need to be advertised. 

Plus, it is ironic to have the saying “Today I give my all” when we get nothing in return. A fair compromise would have been allowing student input into what could be displayed in them or even a poll of whether we wanted to remove the graffiti. What happened instead was a classic App State move; doing something without informing the student body until it was too late to protest. They did it when changing the parking times here on campus, and it will more than likely happen again unless something is done. 

Across this nation, college campuses have been hubs for exercising free speech. During crises the country faces, it has always been a fundamental right for students to voice their expressions without the restraints of the university. The Vietnam War, the invasion of Iraq and the Israel-Hamas War are all examples of how crucial the right to free speech is for college students. Administrations at other colleges have doubled down on restrictions to free speech in the name of creating a safe environment. Taking away one of students’ sacred places for free speech is a direct attack on our First Amendment rights, and for it to be happening in the community is unacceptable. 

These renovations will reflect this shift towards a modern university that has abandoned a crucial aspect of the students’ school spirit. The freedom of speech will prevail no matter what, but it is unacceptable that the university continues to chip away at students’ rights. Protests and petitions have come in full swing to oppose the new renovations, showing that the community will not watch in silence. This transition will hurt everyone: the current students who wish for the past ambiance, the locals who deal with the influx of students and the incoming students who will not get to experience the culture that once was.

 

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About the Contributors
Emily Escobedo Ramirez
Emily Escobedo Ramirez, Opinion Writer
Emily Escobedo Ramirez (she/they) is a sophomore from Durham, NC. She is a Communication Studies major. This is her second year writing with the Appalachian.
Rian Hughes
Rian Hughes, Associate Graphics Editor
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Comments (8)

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  • S

    SierraMar 9, 2024 at 11:14 am

    I’m a current student about to graduate this semester. In celebration of graduating, I was planning on painting on the tunnels for the first time. I’ve waited to paint the tunnels since Freshman year, but now I will never get the opportunity! I’ve talked to so many of my fellow students and not a single one has been happy with this change. The only thing I personally like about this change is that they are going to update the stairs outside of the tunnels, which are pretty rundown and slippery when it rains. We are all outraged at the university for ignoring our freedom of speech, not just with the tunnels, but for other issues such as moving the free parking times to 7:00 pm or the overcrowding of incoming students on the housing market! This article is correct in that the university doesn’t even think about asking the students for their opinions until it is to late to change anything. They claim it is to the benefit of the students, but they are only benefitting themselves. I am still outraged about the free parking situation as well. The university tries to encourage students to attend LEAD tutoring opportunities or extracurricular activities, but most of these events occur around 5:00 pm and a lot of students live off campus, sometimes outside of Boone. This deters students from going to these meetings as we can no longer park for free after 5:00 pm. It also makes it harder for students who have classes after 5:00 pm to make it home in a timely manner. Personally, I have night labs that start around five and go until 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm and because of the new rules, I have to take the bus system home. It sometimes takes me over an hour to get home when I only live around 2 miles from campus! I also work for one of the apartment complexes around Boone and I have seen firsthand how bad the housing situation is. I should not be getting calls from Freshmem looking for places to live, when it is literally a requirement for Freshmen to live on campus their first year. The university doesn’t even have the space to accommodate their Freshmen! I have even heard stories about some students living in their cars or the Hospitality House because there is no more available housing options due to the over acceptance rates at Appalachian State. I used to love this University and it’s culture, but in the past couple of years the University has done more harm then good.

    Reply
  • E

    Evan Randall SmithMar 9, 2024 at 12:19 am

    The tunnels have been a place of expression long before 2012. When I attended App in the late 80’s and early 90’s, one could walk through and see everything from the sublime to silly, as well as offensive. Sometimes the artwork and messages would last for weeks on end, but other times could be covered or changed in less than a day. That was part of the charm and adventure of walking through on a daily basis. There would be grousing every now and then about what was being expressed, but students were at least allowed that much – to express those thoughts or display those ideas. It’s appalling to me that the administration is taking steps to eliminate the ability for students to continue to do so.

    Campus has changed tremendously in many ways, but it was a beautiful environment when I attended particularly since students had the tunnels as an avenue for this type expression. Because of this, I never saw what is being called “graffiti” displays anywhere else on campus. I really do hope the administration will reconsider this “improvement” and continue to provide a space for student expression in this manner. As a proud App grad and annual donor to the University, I would expect that student’s free speech and the ability to express their views would be valued as much now as it was when I attended. At least that is my hope.

    Evan Randall Smith, 1993

    Reply
  • K

    KevinMar 8, 2024 at 5:27 pm

    The expression tunnels are a huge part of Appalachian State’s inclusive and welcoming nature, as well as being full of charm and character! I hope current students start a petition against these renovations.

    Reply
  • W

    wendy m. fletcherMar 5, 2024 at 11:45 am

    The “nickname” “The “Neers” is totally abominable. Just like Furman’s “The ‘Dins”. And LEAVE THE TUNNELS ALONE! Appalachian’s culture has been destroyed by the present administration. (I am a former Asst. Professor and former cheerleading coach.)

    Reply
  • A

    Ally LyonsMar 5, 2024 at 9:36 am

    I have to say I totally agree! I’ve always enjoyed all of the creative expression in the tunnels, and redesigning these without any input from the student body is just wrong. I’m all for the extra lighting – that is truly needed. I debate about the cameras. I agree they are necessary for safety, but I think they will be used more for monitoring & deterring future graffiti artists. Turn the tunnels into an art space, not a propaganda space, and let the students continue to express their creative freedom.

    Reply
  • D

    DeannaMar 5, 2024 at 8:17 am

    The expression tunnels have been this way since the 1970s and maybe before. It is very sad they want to change it.
    Loved the article!

    Reply
  • M

    MuChaoMar 5, 2024 at 7:24 am

    Well said!

    I suppose no one ought to be surprised, however, given that the university is overseen by a wannabe autocrat who’s absolutely terrified of her own employees, and who clearly enjoys wielding her power like some petty little despot.

    Reply
  • J

    Jim BobMar 5, 2024 at 5:37 am

    No one likes everts

    In her first year, she offered $800 bonuses to faculty, then said “psyche!” Right before Christmas and didn’t give any bonuses, but offered a low-interest loan if faculty already spent the bonus they were promised… Sad excuse for a millionaire. My anthropology teacher told us to skip class and join a protest of everts. That was 7 years ago… She is still hurting our campus. A millionaire who doesn’t even live in Boone

    Reply