Sidewalk chalk is a common form of expression and advertisement at many college campuses throughout the US. Atlanta’s Emory University is no different. But this week when “Vote Trump” and “Trump 2016” messages appeared on benches, sidewalks, and stairs, students felt “pain,” “fear,” and “frustration.”
“It’s college campuses today,” laments junior Josh Goodman.
Dozens of students showed up outside the administration building this week to protest, claiming the pro-Trump messages were akin to “violent action.” Other said they were “traumatized.”
“I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe [here],” said one female student. “But this man is being supported by students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well…I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school.”
“How can you not [disavow Trump] when Trump’s platform and his values undermine Emory’s values that I believe are diversity and inclusivity?” asked another student.
After meeting with nearly 50 concerned students, University President Jim Wager has promised to review security footage to identify the “culprit(s).” Trespassing charges will be filed if the messages were written by non-students, while Emory students will face the “conduct violation process” for spreading pro-Trump sentiment.
Goodman says he’s disappointed to hear that Wager plans to “legitimize” these protestors instead of standing up for their First Amendment rights. The school’s president has reassured his students that Emory is “committed to an environment where the open expression of ideas and open, vigorous debate and speech are valued, promoted and encouraged.”
But “was it really just a message about a political preference, a candidate preference, or was it a harsher message? I will tell you, those who met with me were genuine in their concerns that it was the latter.”
Meanwhile, nothing has been said or done about pro-Bernie Sanders or Black Lives Matter chalk messages.