Douglas Belkin, WSJ, February 25, 2017
The roiling debate over free speech on college campuses has claimed a new victim: the white message boards on dorm-room doors that students typically use to tell each other they are at the library — or taking a nap.
Officials at Michigan State University said Friday the boards recently have been used to convey bullying messages and racial epithets, so they have banned them starting next school year.
“Basically we just believe these whiteboards are an outdated form of communication and they have outlived their utility,” said school spokesman Jason Cody.
“You could feel the tension on campus” the day after the election, said Katrina Groeller, a senior sociology major. “Cars were driving by yelling ‘Trump Train’ and things like that. We had a lot of debriefing sessions in class. I got a lot of extensions on papers from professors who were also in shock about what happened and they said ‘take all the time you need.’”
Still, she was skeptical that eliminating the message boards would help.
“It’s just silly,” she said “It’s attacking the method of communication not the message.”Alexis Adams, a senior, estimated that over her four years at the school she has witnessed racist or anti-Semitic messages on dorm-room white boards about every other week. She said the incidents have ramped up over the past few months.
The vandalism has gone both ways, said Justin Gould, the chair of the MSU College Republicans.
Mr. Gould said that in October one of the club’s leadership team had a Trump sticker ripped off her dorm room door. Mr. Gould said he thought long and hard before placing a Trump sticker on his computer and frequently kept his mouth shut during class discussions about politics because he didn’t want to be attacked by fellow students or graded more harshly by his professors.
The Lansing Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People earlier this month posted a note of praise for the school’s ban on Facebook.
“We are in an emotionally charged time,” said Mr. Cody. “We have 50,000 students here from all walks of life, all different races, religions and socio-economic classes.”