New Takes on Chalkings and Writing 'Trump 2016'

Emory students draw images related to all the presidential candidates, seeking to promote free speech; Scripps student government leader sets off debate by condemning "Trump 2016" note written on student's whiteboard.

March 28, 2016

The Donald Trump campaign continues to roil campuses -- with some students viewing any pro-Trump message as an attack on minority students, and others saying that reactions to such messages are endangering rights of free expression.

In recent weeks, some colleges and high schools nationwide have seen "Trump" used as a specific taunt against minority students, in some cases mixed with slurs against various racial and ethnic groups.

Then at Emory University last week, someone anonymously chalked "Trump 2016" or similar messages all over campus (without slurs). Minority and other students said they were hurt by these messages, and administrators expressed sympathy, setting off a widespread debate over the Trump campaign, student sensitivities and other issues. (Many political observers view the Emory students' protests as a gift to the Trump campaign, which likes to criticize student protests.)

Over the weekend, two new developments: at Emory, libertarian students were responsible for a new round of chalkings. This time, images or messages were left in support for all the remaining candidates for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations, sometimes with plays on their slogans. An image of Trump, for example, was accompanied by the message "Make Emory Great Again."

Emory Young Americans for Liberty was responsible for the chalkings, but the goal was not to endorse any of the candidates. Leaders of the effort said they wanted to counter the impression that Emory students are afraid of chalkings.

"We led this protest to affirm that Emory stands for freedom of speech and expression," said Alex Reibman, an Emory student who is one of the organizers. "This was about the right to chalk and the right to express opinions." Reibman said the new chalkings were "a counterprotest to show that students are capable of handling chalk and that we stand for freedom of expression."

Emory has not sought to punish anyone for the original chalkings, but some have taken the sympathy expressed for those who said they were hurt by the chalkings as a squelching of free expression. James Wagner, Emory's president and one of those who did express sympathy with the student hurt by the first chalkings, joined the most recent chalking, writing "Emory stands for free expression." (An essay by Ajay Nair, senior vice president and dean of campus life at Emory, about the university's response to the original chalkings appears on Inside Higher Ed today.)

Anger Over Pro-Trump Message at Scripps

At Scripps College, meanwhile, students have been discussing an email that Minjoo Kim, the student body president, sent out to the campus after learning of a pro-Trump message left on a whiteboard.

"This morning, a Mexican-American Scripps student woke up to find her whiteboard vandalized with the phrase '#Trump2016.' This racist act is completely unacceptable," Kim wrote. "Regardless of your political party, this intentional violence committed directly to a student of color proves to be another testament that racism continues to be an undeniable problem and alarming threat on our campuses."

The email went on to describe counseling services available to Scripps students, and numbers available to report bias incidents. Kim did not respond to questions about her email.

Some at Scripps have praised Kim for speaking out. Others on social media are making comparisons (not favorably) to the Emory students who responded to the initial chalkings there.


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