Pro-Trump Chalk Messages Cause Conflicts on College Campuses

Katie Rogers, New York Times, April 1, 2016

Students at several college campuses are clashing with their administrations and debating the limits of free speech after finding chalk messages voicing support for Donald J. Trump scrawled on campus property.

Last week, at Emory University in Atlanta, officials scrambled to respond to a student demonstration after roughly 100 messages were found on campus. The students felt that there was an anti-diversity subtext to the so-called chalking written on campus about Mr. Trump, the Republican front-runner whose divisive comments about Muslims, women, Hispanics and disabled people have offended his critics but have tended to embolden his supporters.

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In a bulletin sent to students last week, Emory’s president, James W. Wagner, appeared to try to balance the needs of students who felt threatened with those who may feel that supporting Mr. Trump is part of political discourse.

“As an academic community, we must value and encourage the expression of ideas, vigorous debate, speech, dissent and protest,” he wrote.” At the same time, our commitment to respect, civility and inclusion calls us to provide a safe environment that inspires and supports courageous inquiry.”

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The debate over pro-Trump chalking has attracted its critics, who feel that students who are upset by the chalk should get a thicker skin. {snip}

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Still, some school officials, like those at the University of Kansas, are moving to distance themselves from the messages, without calling into question the right of a student to write them.

“The chalking was not approved by any K.U. administrator, nor were we aware of it,” Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said of pro-Trump chalkings on campus. “The university does have a policy regarding chalking but in recent years has erred on the side of free speech when determining how to enforce the policy.”

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[Editor’s Note: Here is another interesting article about #TheChalkening, which notes that pro-Trump chalkings have now appeared on over 100 college campuses.]

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