Tattoos, Posters, and Their Meanings

Take a stroll through the halls of Building 17, also known as the Global Security and Intelligence Studies (GSIS) building, and near the very end by the Cybersecurity department, one will stumble across a poster that stands out. It stands out because it not only doesn’t match the rest of the photos in the hall, but it seems to be a random poster about gang tattoos and appearing a bit dated. When I saw this poster, it initially confused me, and then, later on, brought me to frustration.

I was initially confused because the poster seems out of place. There are a series of photos that show what each respective degree field is about in the departments that inhabit Building 17, and then this old poster. The confusion continued because I have seen friends with some of the tattoos displayed on the poster, and I can say with confidence that they aren’t gang-affiliated. The confusion began to turn into frustration when I realized that the artistry behind many of the displayed pieces isn’t artistry that is easily found in the tattoo community. I realized this poster lacked something: a supplemental display piece with further information. 

I am a firm believer that disseminating misinformation is a dangerous action. This can result in people making decisions, inferences, and judgments based on an incomplete picture. For this reason, I don’t participate in gossip, and actually quite admonish it. It perturbs me on a personal level when misinformation, or even a lack of information, is spread within education. Seeing as how universities are bastions of intellect, knowledge, and research, any and all available information should be readily backed with sources and citations, should they be asked for. In the instance of this poster, it hangs all by its lonesome, without any context or even a course to support it. So, I made an attempt to find out more about it.

Unfortunately, by the time of the writing of this piece, my attempts resulted in nothing. When asking other students, I learned that either students don’t pay attention to the wall décor, or they didn’t even realize this poster was there due to lack of visitation of the hall’s end. I next asked the Office of the Dean of GSIS and was met with more inquiry, as the administrative assistant at the front had to think for a moment before seemingly registering what poster I was referring to. It appeared to me that this poster is a relic of an Embry-Riddle Prescott past that survived to today due to being forgotten. However, its message still rings loud and clear.

When seeing this poster, I felt that the message it was sending was a negative one to body art and modification. I do understand that our society did once view tattoos and piercings in a negative light, but that is changing at a rapid pace. It’s estimated that at least 47 percent of millennials have at least one tattoo, and 37 percent have at least two. Additionally, it is reported that 70% of the American population without a tattoo has considered obtaining one. Those are huge numbers, and with the booming tattoo industry, I don’t think those numbers will drop. As someone with a sleeve of tattoos, and then some, I felt called out. As someone whose family has been impacted by gangs, police, and the prison industrial complex, I felt misunderstood. While I may not be alone on this, I do feel that these feelings can be remediated with either a plaque explaining the poster’s significance, a course to supplement the poster, or removal altogether because as I said earlier, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

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