Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Controversial chalk messaging causes clash in values

Augustana is finding itself in a battle between the expression of free speech and the value of inclusivity this week.
On Tuesday, Sept. 24 students woke up to many of the sidewalks and steps on campus chalked with political messages forcing administration to respond.
Messages supporting presidential candidates, and quotes such as “build the wall” and “feminism equals cancer” were chalked in high traffic areas in the lower quad and along the Slough path.
Many students were in disbelief, calling the “build the wall” message inconsiderate to some of our own community members, and the “feminism equals cancer” remark “tasteless”.
“Personally, I feel frightened by these messages” said senior Keila Saucedo. “I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants and I felt my people specifically targeted by these messages. But I also am fearful for what these messages mean on a larger scale for the college, they imply a strong racial bias, a misunderstanding of feminism (and its relation to cancerous cells), and a lack of concern for community members.”
The entire situation leads to a clash of two values that college’s and college students often pride themselves on, freedom of speech and inclusivity.
The administration issued a statement to the campus Tuesday afternoon addressing the “collision of these two values.”
While many students called on the administration to denounce the actions of the “chalkers”, they chose a different route.
“It would be irresponsible for us to take away exposure to debates happening on our campus and across the country,” said Provost Lawrence and Dean Campbell in the campus wide email.
The statement went on to introduce a “free expression zone for chalking on the academic quad,” located in between the Olin Center and Hanson Hall of Science.
The space provided allows students to chalk their political messages and personal beliefs in an organized way.
“I do not think that the free expression zone will work because it is a reactionary solution,” said Saucedo. “We need to think proactively about how we can better the community’s understandings of race and racism on this campus.”
The statement makes it clear that “messaging that goes against (Augustana’s) community principles of purpose, openness, and respect, accountability and care is subject to removal and disciplinary action as appropriate.”
The statement also noted that a policy that allows for the removal of any political message outside of the “free expression zone” was approved by the board and is effective on Sept. 21 beginning at 6:00 a.m.
“I don’t want anybody to feel discouraged to express themselves using free speech,” said Charlie Bentley, president of Augustana’s Student Government Association. “But, it is equally important to make sure that every single student knows that they are welcomed here and it is important to uphold our values of inclusivity so nobody feels threatened by those expressions.”
SGA will host an event Thursday at the free expression zone to allow students to join together and show support to students who felt negatively affected by Monday night’s incident. They will be chalking messages of support and inclusivity.  That event will be held from 10:30 a.m. until 11:20 a.m.

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Controversial chalk messaging causes clash in values