College can be a stressful period: You’re living on your own for the first time, you’re meeting all sorts of new people, you have to do a lot of reading. Most jarring is the realization that not everyone believes the same things as you do. Some people, for example, like Incubus. It can be jarring. Heck, they even might have political views you find abhorrent!
Some students at Emory are struggling mightily with that last part, if an article in the Emory Wheel (via Gawker) is any indication. Sunday night and Monday morning, the paper reports, some person or group chalked various messages in support of Trump all over campus. The article gives no indication the chalkings were themselves racist or otherwise offensive, other than that they expressed support for a gross political candidate, though one did read “Accept the Inevitable: Trump 2016.”
A group of activists responded on Monday not by laughing at how any of their students could be dumb enough to support a tiny-handed buffoon, or chalking their own anti-Trump messages, but by going nuclear — at least by college-student standards: They immediately started protesting the Emory administration and, eventually, confronted the president himself for failing to act against the the brutal overnight mass-chalking.
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.”
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].”
Eventually, Wagner relented and said he would, in fact, draft an email. More alarming:
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.
A college using using security-camera footage to track down and possibly punish students who expressed political speech? The only way to fairly describe that is, well, the only way to fairly describe the spectacle of a Trump rally delivered to a deliriously cheering crowd: extremely creepy, and a sign that something has gone seriously wrong.