The pit without the pendulum

Kevin Joffre

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This past Tuesday morning, GVSU removed the pendulum hanging outside the Padnos Hall of Science.
By Tuesday evening, articles about the pendulum had been featured in the Detroit Free Press, MLive,
and on Total Frat Move, a website dedicated to the “frat” part of “fraternity.”

According to GVNow’s article “Pendulum Art Piece Removed for Safety Reasons,” Miley Cyrus’s
“Wrecking Ball” music video—in which she swings naked on the titular object—has encouraged many
GVSU students to ride on the pendulum. The article also makes a passing reference to the Vine videos
that have cropped up with wild abandon over the past few days, most featuring nude men riding on
the pendulum. As a result, Facilities Services removed the pendulum so it could “(reassess) the safety
and structural integrity of the current installation and site.”

Now, believe me, I’m 100 percent supportive of campus safety, but the article certainly inspires some
speculation. After all, the pendulum—which was created by Missouri native Dale Eldred in 1973—was
installed in its current location in 1995. And as any GVSU student can tell you, pretty much everyone
has ridden on (or seen someone ride on) the pendulum. So did the sudden onslaught of nude Vines
inspire the university to take down the pendulum?

Honestly, I think the two are only indirectly related. Emails about the potential damage to the
pendulum were sent out as early as July, so it appears that the school was already contemplating the
removal of the pendulum long before Miley Cyrus took her clothes off. And after GVSU released the
image of the pendulum’s frayed cable, it seems pretty obvious that there really was a safety concern.

For those of you who think that the university may have removed the pendulum for PR reasons,
consider this line of thought. After the naked-man-Vine appears, GVSU issues a safety statement and
removes the pendulum. This may be a natural gut-reaction thing to do. After all, who wants social
media outlets associating GVSU with nudity? But then local, state, and national news (Total Frat Move
is actually based out of Texas) hear that GVSU removed the pendulum, so they run with the story. The
nude Vines—which previously were pretty much only circulating in GVSU circles—are now the top hits
if you Google “GVSU” and “pendulum.” I mean, doesn’t this now give everyone the impression that
hundreds of naked GVSU students are waiting in line for their turn on the pendulum? And isn’t that
the exact opposite aim of a PR Department?

So honestly, I think that GVSU’s decision was well-intentioned. After all, if the school was more
concerned with its image, it could have waited until the Vine parodies died off before removing such
an apparently controversial object. And if GVSU had done that…well, who knows? Maybe the pendulum
would have broken after all. So if you are scandalized by GVSU’s sudden spike in notoriety, breathe a
sigh of relief; at least GVSU isn’t known as “that one school where the student was impaled by a
snapped cable.”

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