He stands nearly 12 feet tall, watches over BYU students day and night and is currently covered in shrinkwrap.
BYU’s beloved statue of Massasoit, along with Brigham Young, Karl G. Maeser, the cougar and the university’s entrance signs have all been shrinkwrapped for their protection. Instances of vandalism are heightened during the week preceding rivalry sports events, and the bronze metal statues are especially prone to picking up pigment.
“Some are naive enough to believe that (people) wouldn’t do anything like that at BYU,” said the Director of Grounds Roy Peterman. “It’s not true. We face vandalism fairly regularly.”
The BYU grounds staff began to wrap the statues during rivalry weeks more than 10 years ago. Before that, ROTC and BYU grounds employees would guard the figures all day and all night. Every year, the university goes through two or three rolls of plastic wrap that are eight inches in diameter to wrap the statues.
“That’s more than your Costco Saran Wrap,” Peterman said.
Wrapping the statues is no easy task. For the taller statues like Massasoit, it requires a bucket truck to be able to wrap them sufficiently.
Though some students find the shrinkwrap humorous, they disagree with defacing property for rivalry reasons.
“Vandalism as a representation of rivalry I think is a terrible idea,” said Spencer Campbell, a junior from Prescott, Ariz., studying international relations. “It doesn’t show your true colors or your creativity or your sportsmanship, it just shows your aggression, and that’s kind of an insult to a sporting event.”
Peterman also emphasized the fact that vandalism is immature and never really fulfills its purpose. He related an account of vandalism to the Y on the mountain a few years ago.
“Some star baseball players from another school were kicked off the team and had to pay the horrific cost of painting (the Y) white,” he said. “It’s thousands of dollars. They gave up their whole life, and because it cost so much they have a criminal record.”
Rather than expressing school pride through vandalism, Peterman suggests other means of rival behavior.
“If they want to have a friendly competition, compete in the runs that are going on this week, compete in the food drive, show people up in meaningful, positive ways. Not in silliness,” Peterman said.
BYU is not always the victim. During this week two years ago, BYU students were caught vandalizing the U of U campus. Their actions led to their expulsion from the university.
“It’s a little immature that older people who are supposedly young adults could still revert back to that over something so petty as a football game,” said Jacob Johnson, a freshman from Owasso, Okla.
Campbell reminds us of the value of good sportsmanship:
“We’re people, and we really should be treating other people with respect,” he said. “Just because they don’t go to our university doesn’t make them scum.”