Emory Students Express Discontent With Administrative Response to Trump Chalkings

UPDATE (3/22 at 9:49 p.m.) Scroll down for the original article:

The following day, University President James W. Wagner, as well as representatives from College Council (CC) and Student Government Association (SGA) sent emails to the Emory community to address student concerns and responses. In his University-wide email, Wagner wrote that he intends to implement “immediate refinements to certain policy and procedural deficiencies, regular and structured opportunities for difficult dialogues, a formal process to institutionalize identification, review and [the] addressing of social justice opportunities and issues and a commitment to an annual retreat to renew our efforts.” Wagner added in his email that the previous day’s chalkings represented “values regarding diversity and respect that clash with Emory’s own.”

In the joint email sent on behalf of CC and SGA, representatives wrote that they “remain unapologetically dedicated to inclusion, diversity and equity,” and that both institutions will stand in solidarity with any Emory students who have encountered a lack of safety and support. To provide Emory students an opportunity to discuss such support and inclusivity on Emory’s campus, SGA will hold office hours on Thursday, March 24 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and CC will hold office hours on Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

According to the Dobbs University Center’s (DUC) Posting Policy, chalking must be reserved and approved through Emory’s campus reservation service, 25Live. The Posting Policy says that: chalk cannot be on columns or walls, it must be done on horizontal, ground surfaces and areas where rain can easily wash it away. Failure to comply with these policies results in a clean up fee. Chalking also may only remain for 48 hours. After this time, another group can chalk, if they reserve their chalking through 25Live.

The DUC’s Posting Policy also points out that the DUC is guided by the University’s policy on open expression, and any member of the Emory community who violates the open expression of others will be held in violation of said policy.

According to Emory University’s Open Expression Policy 8.14.5.8, “nonpersonal protests” such as chalking, should follow “all applicable flyer posting policies and banner reservation rules.” It also states that “no nonpersonal protests will be denied because of the content” of the display as long as they falls within the law, and that members of the community who “deface the open expression of others” are also violating this policy.

The article will be updated as information becomes available.

Students protested yesterday at the Emory Administration Building following a series of overnight, apparent pro-Donald Trump for president chalkings throughout campus.

Roughly 40 students gathered shortly after 4:30 p.m. in the outdoors space between the Administration Building and Goodrich C. White Hall; many students carried signs featuring slogans such as “Stop Trump” or “Stop Hate” and an antiphonal chant addressed to University administration, led by College sophomore Jonathan Peraza, resounded “You are not listening! Come speak to us, we are in pain!” throughout the Quad. Peraza opened the door to the Administration Building and students moved forward towards the door, shouting “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Students protested. / Julia Munslow, Executive Editor
Students protested apparent pro-Donald Trump chalkings throughout campus. / Julia Munslow, Executive Editor

After approximately ten minutes outside from the start of the demonstration, the gathered students were ushered into the Quad-facing entrance to the Administration Building and quickly filled a staircase to continue their demonstration. Pausing in the staircase, a few students shared their initial, personal reactions to the chalkings.

“I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe [here],” one student said. “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,” she added.

A short time later, students moved into the Henry L. Bowden Board Room, surrounding the long table that dominates its center, the students themselves surrounded by portraits of Emory University’s former presidents.

“What are we feeling?” Peraza asked those assembled. Responses of “frustration” and “fear” came from around the room, but individual students soon began to offer more detailed, personal reactions to feelings of racial tension that Trump and his ideology bring to the fore.

“How can you not [disavow Trump] when Trump’s platform and his values undermine Emory’s values that I believe are diversity and inclusivity when they are obviously not [something that Trump supports]” one student said tearfully. “Banning Muslims? How is that something Emory supports?” asked yet another.

University President James W. Wagner, who had been standing just inside the threshold of the door, had been called  into the board room by students and listened at the head of the table while they described how the appearance of the chalkings made them feel. He addressed several questions throughout the time in the board room, including “Why did the swastikas [on the AEPi house in Fall 2014] receive a quick response while these chalkings did not?” to which Wagner replied that they “represented an outside threat” and clarified that it was a second set of swastikas that received a swift response from the University. “What do we have to do for you to listen to us?” students asked Wagner directly, to which he asked, “What actions should I take?” One student asked if Emory would send out a  University-wide email to “decry the support for this fascist, racist candidate” to which Wagner replied, “No, we will not.” One student clarified that “the University doesn’t have to say they don’t support Trump, but just to acknowledge that there are students on this campus who feel this way about what’s happening … to acknowledge all of us here.”

Julia Munslow, Executive Editor
University President James W. Wagner listens to students. / Julia Munslow, Executive Editor

Other students asked for improving diversity in the “higher positions” of the University, including the Board of Trustees and the faculty in general who should not be simply “diversity sprinkles” to improve statistics, as one student described it.

Grievances were not restricted to shortcomings of the administration. “[Faculty] are supporting this rhetoric by not ending it,” said one student, who went on to say that “people of color are struggling academically because they are so focused on trying to have a safe community and focus on these issues [related to having safe spaces on campus].”

While Wagner initially stated that he would not be writing a University-wide email regarding Trump, after over an hour of discussion in the board room, he appeared to have decided to begin working on an email concerned with at least the chalkings, at which point he gently wrapped up the conversation so that he could begin drafting it.

Assistant Vice President for Community Suzanne Onorato, who was also present during the protest and suggested that she would look into hosting a forum for those involved, agreed with Wagner’s sentiments. “I think it’s wonderful that students are taking a stand for something that they’re passionate about, for something that’s so much about themselves  — and we want to support that,” she said in an interview with the Wheel.

The chalkings that generated such controversy appeared overnight throughout Emory’s campus. College junior Harpreet Singh said that, initially, he did not find the chalkings significant. “I saw one big one, ‘Trump 2016,’ so I thought it was an isolated incident and I didn’t think much of it,” he said. “I thought, ‘Okay, it’s just a guy who wants to write whatever he wants to believe in for his political campaign.’ I was like, ‘Okay, I’m fine with that, to a certain extent.’”

Suzanne Onorato addresses the students. / Julia Munslow, Executive Editor
Assistant Vice President for Community Suzanne Onorato addresses the students. / Julia Munslow, Executive Editor

Singh reported having seen multiple chalkings that read “Trump 2016” between Cox Hall Bridge and the Dobbs University Center (DUC). “What I also saw on the steps near Cox [Hall] Bridge was ‘Accept the Inevitable: Trump 2016,’” he said. “That was a bit alarming. What exactly is the inevitable? Why does it have to be accepted?”

Trump chalking rubbed away. / Julia Munslow, Executive Editor
Trump chalking rubbed away. / Julia Munslow, Executive Editor

The University will review footage “up by the hospital [from] security cameras” to identify those who made the chalkings, Wagner told the protesters. He also added that if they’re students, they will go through the conduct violation process, while if they are from outside of the University, trespassing charges will be pressed.

Organization and coordination of the protest appears to have fermented in individual student groups independently of one another. Singh, who participated in the protests, also had a part in their planning. While he said that each group or community held their own discussions on the chalkings over social media, he noted that “[he] also reached out to the Muslim community” and that several of these students attended the gathering.

Julia Munslow, Executive Editor
Julia Munslow, Executive Editor

While the University has not released an official response as of press time, Donald Trump obviously remains a flashpoint for many students, but according to Singh there is comfort to be found for those who feel oppressed. “For the students, it’s reassuring to see how they are able to voice out their opinions and, although it might be safe or uncomfortable, we know that we have a community behind us, whether that be the Latin[x] community, the Muslim community or the black student community — there are pools of safety we can go to,” Singh said.

Read more Wheel coverage:

Read our continued coverage on the Emory administration’s response here. Read the Letter from the Wheel’s Editor-in-Chief here.

Executive Editor Julia Munslow, News Editor Anwesha Guha and Staff Writer Mengyao Yuan contributed reporting.

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