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Ask Cam

A landmark question

March 11, 2009


If we want to be known as a green University, why do we continue to spray paint on an annual basis all over trees, shrubs, rocks, squirrels, and anything else that doesn't get out of the way just so that we can have an "A" on the hillside? Wouldn't it be much better to build a structure up there that we could paint instead of painting the landscape?

Cam’s answer:

Painting squirrels? Heaven’s no! Not my furry brethren! Stop this instant!

But seriously, thanks for your concern. Although the tradition of painting the “A” is as old as the hills (well, maybe not that old), we do hear from people about this practice.

Bill Woods, the CSU alumnus who spearheads the project with the Alumni Association, tells me: “Each year for the last 10 years, the ‘A’ has been whitewashed with paint that’s been inspected by CSU’s Environmental Health Services department. They are the folks who give the go-ahead for using the non-toxic paint.”

The historical perspective of the landmark is actually pretty interesting. The “A,” which stands for Aggies, evolved after World War I, when a trend began among colleges to display the school insignia on a hill near campus. At a special assembly in 1923, students of State Agricultural College (as CSU was then known) agreed to sculpt the emblem in the Foothills west of campus. A group of military volunteers formed the "A" Club and donated vehicles for transporting supplies. Construction was completed in just six hours. (I have a feeling that material used to paint the “A” may not have been as non-toxic in the early 1900s as it is now.)

But it helps to know that the nearly 100-foot-tall emblem of our University has been around for 86 years, giving squirrels and other fellow creatures plenty of time to pencil in the yearly whitewashing project and avoid the area!

One more note: Tanida Ruampant ('01), director of Alumni and Student Programs at CSU’s Alumni Association, notes that organizers work with city and county natural resource offices to acquire the proper permits to access the area, which helps preserve the land around the “A.”

Tanida also says that members of the freshmen football team, Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and Student Alumni Connection currently spearhead the painting of our school's emblem. However, in recent years, the project has expanded to be inclusive of the entire campus.

“For the past three years, the paint crew has included other Greek organizations, faculty, staff, and students from all over campus,” Tanida tells me. “In 2008, more than 100 campus members participated in the painting of the 'A.' "