It went out like a wrecking ball
GVSU officials expect pendulum to return after modifications made
Following the removal of Grand Valley State University’s pendulum ball outside of Henry Hall, students
engaged in protests both at the former site of the ball, as well as on social media sites—where the
hoopla first began.
Many gathered Tuesday night at the now-empty sand pit to sing rounds of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking
Ball,” whose music video of a nude Cyrus swinging on a wrecking ball inspired GVSU students to
Those parodies, which were uploaded to social media sites, caught the attention of university officials,
who promptly removed the ball as a safety precaution.
“For the past couple of weeks, we have had photos and videos forwarded of students on the
pendulum,” said Tim Thimmesch, associate vice president of Facilities Services. “That is what
prompted the discussion as to safety of the installation and the decision to remove the ball for now,
reassess the structural integrity and develop improved safety features before reinstallation at this site
or another on campus.”
Before coming to the final decision of taking the pendulum down—which was collectively decided by
Facilities Services, Facilities Planning and GVSU’s Risk Management Department—there were other
“We considered just raising the height of the ball, but in the end determined it would be best to
remove it at this time,” Thimmesch said. “The pendulum ball will be stored at this time pending
improvements to the existing site or a new, future location that it might be better accommodated.”
Although swinging on the ball has been a university pastime since 1995 and is not an offense in itself,
the public nudity expressed in some of the social media videos could call for legal ramifications.
However, this is not a subject of concern at present time.
Capt. Brandon DeHaan, assistant director of the Department of Public Safety, said that he doesn’t
believe the activity seen in the videos constitute a criminal offense. “This matter is not being
investigated by the police as a criminal complaint, but has been referred to the dean’s office,” DeHaan
Dean of Students Bart Merkle said that at this point, administrators are just trying to understand what
has gone on and are more concerned with safety rather than disciplinary action.
“Our biggest concern is safety,” Merkle said. “I don’t see any policy violations or anything like that.
The ball has been part of the campus community for a long time, so right now we’re figuring out how
it can come back but be safe.”
He said the most popular video of two students diving into the pit revealed a safety hazard. “If that
ball had swung and caught you between it and the edge of the pit, you could be crushed,” he said.
“It’s a 500-pound ball. We’re trying to ensure that no one gets hurt.”
Merkle said it is still unknown when the pendulum will be returning to campus, as the safety aspects
are still being evaluated.
“I’m glad that no one was hurt,” he said. “I certainly appreciate the enthusiasm and energy that
students have about that piece of art. It’s part of the community and people are reacting. I would hope
that’s what would happen if you remove any piece of art that people like.”
Mary Eilleen Lyon, associate vice president for News and Information Services, said that while GVSU is
now receiving international attention for the removal of the pendulum, she would rather have had it
for a different reason.
“It is happening outside of us,” Lyon said. “I would rather they’d pick up that we are a top university, a
good value, the ‘Best in the Midwest’ or for the accolades we’ve received, but this story is easy to
Some students continue to express dissatisfaction about the pendulum’s removal because it was a
part of the GVSU experience.
“It’s a Grand Valley tradition and every student should be able to do it,” said senior Chelsea Moore
about swinging on the pendulum. “I think after all of this has gone viral they should bring it back.”
Still, Merkle said the university had to act and hopes that students can understand why. “I hope that
students can understand that the university really had to take some action to ensure people’s safety,”
he said. “There were really some potential safety issues, so it was a good thing that we took it down.”
For more student reactions to the removal of the ball, search the hashtag #GVSUWreckingBall on
More Related Media:
- WoodTV8 News: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjHCQ-8aLhw
- Detroit Free Press: http://www.freep.com/article/20130918/NEWS06/309180060/Grand-Valley-State-University-sculpture-removed-after-Miley-Cyrus-Wrecking-Ball-parodies
- Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/09/18/miley-cyrus-wrecking-ball-grand-valley-state-university-sculpture/
- Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/18/gvsu-wrecking-ball-parody-sculpture_n_3947161.html?utm_hp_ref=college
- MLive: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2013/09/gvsu_removes_sculpture_after_n.html
- E!: http://www.eonline.com/news/459994/michigan-university-removes-pendulum-statue-after-naked-students-used-it-to-recreate-miley-cyrus-wrecking-ball-video