Every year, Oxford’s Walmart has to stock and restock one item in large quantities – coolers. A long tradition among Southern colleges is painting coolers for formal dates. However, there are challenges that come with this task.
Stores sell out of coolers. Some students cannot paint well. But the biggest issue now is a recent cautionary email sent by University of Mississippi leaders from the UM Department of Housing.
The email prohibits students from painting, priming and sanding coolers for their formal dates in dorm rooms. It reads: “Painting indoors not only damages floors, furniture, and other surfaces, but also allows harmful chemicals to remain in the air, affecting all members of the community.” Painting is also not allowed outside on the sidewalk or campus grounds.
Some students are taking risks and precautions when painting coolers. Lauren Booth, 18, from Lakeway, Texas, is a freshman integrated marketing communications major. She is attending a spring formal and will be painting a cooler for her formal date.
“I don’t see an issue with painting coolers indoors,” she said. “I understand where the Department of Housing is coming from when they sent the email telling us we can’t paint our coolers in our dorms, but I feel like if you take proper precautions, it shouldn’t be an issue.”
Many students are taking the same precautions as Booth. “I put a tarp under my cooler so I don’t get any paint on the floors,” Booth said. “Another thing I do is paint with my dorm windows open to make sure that none of the chemicals stay in the air too long.”
Booth’s roommate is also painting a cooler for her formal date. Grace Wiley, 19, from Dallas, whose major is undecided, rooms Booth. Wiley has already painted most of her cooler and is helping Booth with hers as needed.
“I really enjoyed painting my cooler for my date, however ever since I got the email from the Housing Department, I feel kind of shady painting in my room,” she said. “But I mean, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I have nowhere else to go to finish painting it, so I am just being extra careful and taking the same precautions that Lauren is doing.”
A lot of other students are cautious because no one wants to be fined. Most students respect the property while painting coolers for formal dates. But there are visible damages inside and outside Crosby Hall from years of cooler painting, which is why most students understand why the Housing Department sent the email.
Students may understand, however, they have not stopped painting coolers. It’s a risk most are willing to take to continue the tradition.