Gum

A piece of gum fills portions of letters in UA alumnus Thomas Hopkins’s name April 2 along a portion of Senior Walk.

She had not been on campus in over six years and was excited to see her name etched into the iconic Senior Walk for the first time. Alumna Haley Malle made her way past the Chi Omega Greek Theatre and Hillside Auditorium, looking for her name. To her surprise, she found her own covered in a string of blackened chewing gum that stretched between the L and E in her name and the name above.

Last summer was the first time Malle had visited campus to see her name engraved in the iconic sidewalk since she graduated in 2011.

Malle, who now lives in Phoenix and has no family close to Fayetteville, said she probably will not be on campus again. Her first and only trip back to Fayetteville was her only chance to see her name on Senior Walk.

Senior Walk is a landmark that began with the class of 1905. Names were stamped by hand before the invention of the Sand Hog, a machine specifically created to etch names into the walk, according to the registrar's website. Damaged names are repaired when the newest class is added to the walk.

Over 170,000 graduates’ names are now listed on Senior Walk, according to the Office of the Registrar. Names are typically added a year after the graduation of a class, and changes are made for administrative errors and damaged names only.

Blackened by wear and time, chewing gum sticks to the names. Phillip Malloy, who graduated in 2011, is one of many alumni whose name is covered with chewing gum, he said.

Malloy has not visited campus in three or four years, and there was no chewing gum during his last visit. He thinks facilities management should clean the chewing gum off of Senior Walk if it continues to be an issue, he said.

There is no regular, scheduled maintenance for the Senior Walk sidewalks, said Kelley Sharp, the facilities project and program manager. The last time Senior Walk was cleaned was three years ago.

She does not know if there is anything officials can do to prevent it, but she thinks they can do more to help keep it clean, Malle said.

“I wouldn’t think about it as a student,” Malloy said. “I have a lot going on in my head. I’m going to class, and I spit a piece of gum out. I think signs of encouragement would help … just some type of awareness to it.”

Virginia Prazak, who graduated from the UA School of Law in 2010, last visited campus four years ago, and her name was not covered in chewing gum. She lives in Little Rock and does not visit often but would like to someday show her kids her name on Senior Walk, Prazak said.

“We’re in Little Rock now, so hopefully we’ll get to visit more,” Prazak said. “I have a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old. When they do get older, I would love to take them. It would kind of suck if my name is one of the gross names.”

Senior Ashley Oline, who is majoring in communication disorders, looks forward to coming back to campus someday to see her name on Senior Walk and would be very upset if the first time she came back she found her name covered in chewing gum, she said.

Oline thinks the university officials and employees should check names on Senior Walk for chewing gum at least once per year, she said.

“I understand that’s money, but we do pay to go this university,” Oline said. “We want to be proud of it and be like, ‘Look, that’s my name.’”

Facilities staff encourages all members of the university and visitors to respect campus by disposing of their chewing gum properly, said Breanna Lacy, the communications coordinator for Facilities Management, in an email.

“While we understand the frustration of finding gum on sidewalks, time and resources prevent us from scraping gum from the five-plus miles of sidewalk that encompasses Senior Walk,” Lacy said. “As these things get out of hand and resources become available, we will sometimes organize a special project to try to clean up the areas receiving the most damage.”

Facilities Management upkeeps 8.5 million square feet of buildings and over 500 acres of grounds around campus, Lacy said.

There are 119 workers for Facilities Management, according to the campus directory.

“I’ve been to other campuses before, and it is truly unique to have a senior walk,” Malloy said. “It’s nice to go back and validate that I was a part of this. I think it’s important to keep it cleaned off and maintained.”

 

Abbi Ross is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since March 2019.

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