mory’s Student Government Association (SGA) and the College Council released a joint statement Tuesday after students voiced “genuine concern and pain” over pro-Donald Trump chalkings on campus saying that “the messages represent particularly bigoted opinions, policies, and rhetoric.”
Following the “unexpected chalking” which consisted of such phrases as, “Vote Trump 2016,” “Accept the Inevitable, Trump 2016,” and “Build the Wall,” about 40 students protested in front of the Emory Administration Building with signs saying “Stop Trump” and “Stop Hate.”
“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.”
The Emory Wheel reports that student Jonathan Peraza led chants of “You are not listening! Come speak to us, we are in pain,” during the protest.
“So this student is afraid of chalk opinions? Is this real life? That's the standard of fear now,” Fox Sport’s Clay Travis said in reply to Peraza cries.
The students then moved inside the Administration Building while shouting, “We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Once inside a boardroom, with president James Wagner listening, Peraza asked his fellow students how they were feeling.
“Frustration” and “fear” were some of the responses before one student said tearfully, “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].”
Wagner reportedly then asked the students what the university should do about the situation, to which one student replied, “decry the support for this fascist, racist candidate.”
After over an hour of discussion, Wagner eventually agreed and said he would begin to draft an email. He also assured the protesters that officials will be reviewing security footage and if the offenders are Emory students then they will go through the conduct violation process. If they are not students, they will be charged with trespassing.
Amanda Obando, a student at Emory, said she was fearful after the chalkings appeared and expressed concern that the university didn’t take any immediate, definite steps.
“People still don’t understand that the protest yesterday served not only as an expression against one interpretation of the chalking, but also as a collective manifestation against the fear that a bigot leader can create,” Obando added.
Libertarian writer Jeffrey Tucker took it a step further and equated the chalking with a “cross burning.”
"It was like cross burning. It was on private property. It was extremely damaging and the students and faculty were totally embarrassed...it was absolutely intended to intimidate everyone and it worked,” Tucker told Reason.com.
Not long after the Trump chalkings appeared, many of them were already replaced with phrases saying, “Choose compassion,” “Stop hate” and “Stand against hatred.”
“Look, I’m so pleased I was in the building when [the protesters] arrived,” Wagner said in an interview with The Emory Wheel, “The opportunity to listen and their willingness to try to explain more and more clearly to me what the root of the concerns were was very effective.”
In his campus-wide email, Wagner outlined four steps that he plans to take, which includes immediately refining certain policies, providing opportunities for difficult dialogues, starting a process to institutionalize identification, and reviewing and addressing social justice issues.
The SGA and College Council pledged in the statement, obtained by Campus Reform, to stand in solidarity with the “threatened” communities of this incident and to also make emergency funds available to “any student organization looking to sponsor events in response to this incident.”
Zak Hudak, The Emory Wheel’s editor-in-chief, says that it shouldn’t be the role of an educational institution to tell students which opinions they are allowed to have.
“If we shut down the opposition, we lose our purpose as a university. We lose the courage to inquire, and we lose the ability to engage with the contention that we will encounter outside of the Emory community,” Hudak argued.
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