Student Volunteers Paint the Block U

The cement Block U got a fresh coat of paint Saturday morning when about 15 student volunteers applied their rollers to the hill northeast of campus.

“It looks a lot worse from up close than from a distance,” said AnnMarie Allen, who participated. Blue, purple, even green paint decorated the dirty-white symbol before it got its new coat of paint, she said.

Liz Stringham, a neighbor agrees. Up close, the symbol is an eyesore, she said.

“I’m happy they came and painted it,” she said. “I hope it will be done on a consistent basis.”

Stringham lives in the Federal Pointe neighborhood, a recent development bordering the Block U.

No University of Utah entity has claimed full responsibility for maintaining the Block U, hindering any response to neighbors’ complaints about its condition.

But their concerns recently bore fruit.

The Student Alumni Association organized Saturday’s project, sending about 15 volunteers up the hill to “whitewash” the Block U.

“SAA has decided it wants to take it on as our project,” said Anne Waterman, SAA’s adviser. Painting the Block U could be done annually, perhaps around Homecoming-time, she said.

The painting came more than a week after a grounds crew pulled weeds and did some general cleanup on the dirty, graffiti-scrawled letter.

However, the grounds crew does not have primary responsibility for the Block U’s maintenance, said Randy Turpin, associate vice president for facilities management.

The crew comes in only in extreme situations, he said. “It’s not part of their regular maintenance work.”

“Maybe it needs to come back to the students,” said Allen, senior class president and SAA board member. “I wish there was more of that school spirit and organization to take care of it.”

The Block U is often vandalized by U students?not by ones from other universities, she said.

“I don’t think its a common thing that it gets vandalized,” she said. “It just doesn’t get taken care of often.”

Even after the cleanup efforts, Greek symbols still adorn the ground at the center of the Block U.

This happens a couple of times a year?a greek group will find a way to put its symbols near the cement U, Stringham said.

But they are easier to have cleaned up, because the responsible party leaves a signature.

The lighting system’s bulbs are particularly vulnerable to vandalism, according to Marc Day, director of development relations.

In fact, the need for a new lighting system was part of the impetus for a fundraising campaign that started about two years ago.

The university wanted to raise money to put in drainage system, anchor the U to the mountain and put in new lighting system which would have been fiber optic, and reseed the area, he said.

However, the goal of about $300,000 has yet to be reached, and other projects, such as scholarships and refurbishing Fort Douglas, have taken priority, he said.

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