Wake Forest Abdicates Moral Virtue by Rolling the Quad


Randall Rogan

It is time for us to align our institutional values with our behavior and traditions.

It has struck us as morally dissonant that WFU articulates a number of inspiring moral principles, while we continue to ‘roll the quad’ with toilet paper when one of our athletic teams achieves a noteworthy victory, or some other meaningful event occurs for our institution.

As a university, we proudly espouse sound environmental practices and stewardship. In fact, most of our recently constructed buildings are highly rated as environmentally sustainable structures. Yet we throw toilet paper on the trees on Hearn Plaza, frivolously wasting an environmentally derived commodity. According to the National Geographic Green Guide, an estimated 27,000 trees are cut down daily (nearly 10 million annually) to produce toilet paper.  Additionally, removal of the tissue can result in unintended damage to a tree, thereby making it susceptible to disease and infestation. In our opinion, this is incommensurate with our stated values.

As a university, we proudly espouse inclusive respect for all members of our community, yet we require that our grounds management staff clean up after us and remove the toilet paper from the trees. In our opinion, this behavior is elitist and inconsistent with our stated values. As a university, we value responsible financial management, yet we spend hundreds of dollars each year to buy scores of rolls of toilet paper to hand out to newly-arrived first-year students so that they can “learn” the proper technique for “rolling the quad.” This practice is inconsistent with our values. As a university, we proudly espouse a value of giving back to those less fortunate in our surrounding off-campus community, which we do in many meaningful and important ways. Yet, we willfully waste hundreds of rolls of toilet paper that many in our community could use for its intended purpose. (Recently, toilet paper was the donation item of the month for the Second Harvest Food Bank). Again, our behavior is not consistent with our stated values.

Therefore, it is time that we align our values with our behaviors. Let us end the tradition of “rolling the quad” with toilet paper. But let’s not end our celebrations. We propose that our division of Student Life promote a campus-wide challenge among concerned students, faculty, and staff to devise creative, value-consistent alternatives to this tradition. Our goal should be to develop a new and responsible tradition that we can all be proud of. For example, one possible alternative could involve rolling the quad in the large bubble balls used for entertainment at football and basketball games. Given the breadth of creativity that exists in our community, we are confident that we can collectively generate many other unique and fun alternatives to show the world how Deacons share their joy and that are consonant with our institutional values. Let the process begin!

If you agree, please join us by adding your name to the petition to end the practice of rolling the quad with toilet paper.  You can find this petition here

Sincerely, Professors Randall Rogan and John Llewellyn, Department of Communication