Pro-Trump chalkings: KU says it ‘errs on side of free speech’ and has not removed them
Some students have complained about pro-Trump chalking on Kansas University sidewalks in recent weeks. But while nature may have erased some of the messages, KU has not intervened, university spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said.
At KU and a number of other college campuses nationwide, sidewalk chalking endorsing Republican front-runner presidential candidate Donald Trump has cropped up, often with the hashtag #TheChalkening. Some students have objected on social media and directly to university administrations, even calling on them to remove the chalkings, because they say Trump is intolerant of minorities, among other complaints. At Emory University in Atlanta, students said the pro-Trump chalkings made them fear for their lives.
KU has a chalking policy. It addresses sidewalk chalking along with posting material to bulletin boards, and can be found online here.
The policy says university units and registered KU organizations are allowed to chalk to promote upcoming events. With approval from the University Events Committee, nonregistered groups or individuals also can chalk to promote upcoming events.
Barcomb-Peterson said KU doesn’t have staff out patrolling for violations of its chalking policy. She said the university is aware that some students don’t want pro-Trump messages on the sidewalk but that KU has not erased any of them.
“We do have a policy, but in terms of when and whether we enforce it, we’re always erring on the side of free speech,” Barcomb-Peterson said.
KU’s policy does say chalking that violates the policy is subject to removal, and responsible parties can be charged for removal costs. But doing so “is not really part of our practice,” Barcomb-Peterson said.
That said, chalk is pretty ephemeral stuff, and weather and thousands of walking feet can deteriorate sidewalk messages quickly without anyone proactively washing it away. I was on the north end of campus Tuesday and saw no Trump chalkings but did see a couple others, some promoting an upcoming 5K run and others Thursday night’s student body president candidate debates (7 p.m. in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union, BTW) — not sure how long those had been there but all were pretty faded and hard to make out.?
To give you a feel for what’s happening online, where most of this battle seems to be being waged, here are a few emissions direct from the Twitter-sphere:
Make KU Great Again! We won't be stopped! pic.twitter.com/zZdeNIYFjs
— RockChalkTrumpHawk (@TrumpHawk) April 3, 2016
There are at least a dozen msgs like this one on Jayhawk Blvd. This was taken next to a tour w/ prospective students pic.twitter.com/0Ee4QvAGQc
The New York Times even included a link to an anti-Trump chalking tweet from KU in a Friday article.
Trump support at @KUnews. Is this the post-racial paradise folks pretend exists?
A Wednesday Chronicle of Higher Education article on the Trump chalkings seemed, in its usual academic way, to sum up concerns of the people who say the messages equate to “intimidation”: “In their view, Mr. Trump’s name has become synonymous with attacks on Muslims, Latin Americans, African-Americans, and other minority groups. They contend that the ‘Trump 2016’ and ‘Vote Trump’ messages … represent intolerant views that have no place on campuses that seek to promote inclusion and respect.”
• I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at email@example.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.