Bricks are part of everyday life and culture at N.C. State University, to the point where the communal gathering spot on campus is called the Brickyard.
So beloved are the red bricks that they’ve been disappearing for years. Here and there, and especially this time of year, holes appear in campus walkways where bricks used to be.
It’s unclear when it started – the tradition of seniors stealing bricks as treasured mementos of their time at State. But now the university is trying to combat the thievery with a new tradition: giving away bricks.
Near the student center, bricks are lined up with a sign offering them to graduating seniors. “Please take one here and NOT from the walkways,” the sign implores.
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Apparently, the holes are creating hazards for pedestrians, bikers and skateboarders. And they’re an expensive hassle for the grounds staff at NCSU. A facilities official told Technician, the student newspaper, that grounds crews had replaced 2,000 missing bricks in the past 16 months, costing nearly $20,000 in labor and materials.
On a summer-like day Friday, Kyle Wurtz, a freshman engineering major from Greensboro, was skateboarding in Wolf Plaza, one of the locations known for vanishing bricks.
“We can usually go around them,” Wurtz said of the gaping rectangular holes. “When they are missing there are usually a lot missing in one place.”
Once a single brick is pried out of the ground, adjacent bricks are soon to go, too. They end up as bookends, paperweights, doorstops – little pieces of hallowed Wolfpack territory.
Wurtz thinks it’s not just a tradition for seniors. He knows plenty of first-year students who have swiped a brick, thinking it would bring them good luck along their academic path.
“I do know the missing bricks are causing injuries,” said Malia Morgan, a junior from Chapel Hill, as she was on her way to class.
Stealing the bricks is almost encouraged, Morgan said. A tradition book, handed out to new students, mentions the practice. The name of the book? “The Brick.”
Kerri Johnson, a sophomore from Raleigh, sees the brick stealing as harmless. She hasn’t nabbed a brick yet, though.
“It’s a cute tradition,” she said, while eating lunch in the Brickyard. “It’s kind of a running joke that sooner or later, you will trip walking through here.”