Campus Life | March 31st, 2021

University Releases New Rattler Statue Provisions for Spring Graduates

By: Elaina Williams
University Releases New Rattler Statue Provisions for Spring Graduates

As spring commencement draws nearer, students excitedly began flocking back to campus to take their graduation photos. The infamous eternal flame used to be the hottest spot to take photos on campus, but ever since Brad Cooley Jr., a visual artist, sculpted the university’s bronze rattler statue, the flame has lost its popularity.

With the new 8-foot tall statue in front of the CASS building on Wahnish Way, this has been a popular landmark for graduation photos. Graduating seniors have found their new favorite spot to pose, capture and celebrate the completion of their undergraduate studies. However, some students might have taken their creative visions to the extreme.

“Some students have endangered themselves and the structure of the statue by climbing, sitting, standing, and releasing smoke bombs that have both stained the statue and corresponding foundation,” Bomani Spell, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students said.

Last Tuesday, the rumor of students being banned from taking photos at the new site emerged across Instagram as students began to worry that they could no longer take photos with the mascot. According to a post from a local photographer, a student was caught with a photo of a smoke bomb in the rattler snake’s mouth, which preempted the supposed provisions.

Spell clarified that the university simply asks that the spring graduates are more careful and respectful.

“Students are not banned from taking photos and videos around the statue,” he said. “The administration had the statue built as a source of pride for current, past, and future Rattlers. What we have done is ask students not to climb up on the statue or supersede the water barrier.”

He says students can still take photos and videos in front of the statue, as long as they exercise safety precautions.

“The university has not enacted a rule, but [has] requested the university community to respect the statue and practice safety as they take memorable photos, videos, etc,” he said. “Safety signs have been placed on and in front of the statue to encourage the community to protect the Rattler statue.”

Spell added, “The statue is a source of immense pride to all Rattlers. With this sense of pride, we would expect Rattlers not to deface the statue with smoke bombs or climb up on it, risking their safety and the structural integrity.”

Spell expressed that the division of student affairs would share a letter to the spring graduates communicating the request. The letter was shared Monday morning to all FAMU students in an email with the subject, “Letter to Spring 2021 Graduates.”

Some students found the note in the letter to be distasteful. Diamond Kelly, a pre-physical therapy, student said that she felt offended by the remarks from student affairs as it had a condescending tone.

“I agree that we should take care of our new statue but it felt like they were talking to us like we’re children,” Kelly said. “This is a happy moment. Yes, we should be careful, but we’re showing our Rattler spirit and our Rattler swag. This should be a happy environment.”

Kelly is a part of the Marching 100 and due to Bragg Memorial stadium being closed, she plans to take her photos with the sculpture.

“I plan on doing my band photos there,” she said. “The last couple of band performances have been at the snake so I plan on having my drum with me and the snake behind me.”

Tierra Wesley, a fourth-year doctor of pharmacy candidate, agrees with the Dean of Students remarks.

“They’ve already stained it and it just got built so I do feel like we should be able to take pictures by it because we are graduating and we are rattlers and that is our school mascot, but at the same time people should be a little smarter when taking these pictures,” Wesley said.

Wesley was not able to take her graduation photos in Tallahassee due to her work and school schedule however she hopes to come back to an unmarked statue to capture some shots next to it. She says that students should be cautious not to harm the new landmark.

Spell wanted to share with the students that he encourages them to show off their rattler pride, just do it safely and respectfully.

“The university wants everyone to have love and pride for our Rattler statue,” he said. “We want students to take pictures and videos and show the world the essence of FAMU. We want the statue to last for generations so that future Rattlers can have the same opportunities to enjoy as current students.”