Today I was thinking about how one might respond to someone who would ask you critically about why you feel the need to chalk at Wesleyan. For many of us, there is the knee-jerk response, “FREEDOM OF SPEECH!”
And of course, that’s a big part of it.
Then of course, there’s FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION! And that’s a big part of this, too. Voices that need to be heard. Ideas expressed.
But there’s an angle that I adhere to when it comes to this debate that is rarely brought up and since we are talking about freedom of expression and freedom of speech and all the good things we at Wesleyan stand for, why not share it?
So as I posted about before, chalk played a big role in my choosing of Wesleyan as a college. And I’ve come to some conclusions why this might have been.
Chalking is a temporary ownership of the school. We are affected every day, as students, by decisions we do not make. We are treated, more often than anything else, not as students, but as tenants. We have landlords and we pay rent. After four years, new tenants will fill our spots and so on and so forth. We have relatively no say in what is being built or what will be taken down. We leave almost no trace of our existence at this school upon graduation. For many of us, the only time the Administration ever seemed interested in who we are and how we think was when they were trying to get us to come here. And as actual students, we continue to see the energy poured into admissions that is not being poured into making Wesleyan worth coming to.
So in this inability to leave a mark on the school, we are trying to make our mark on each other. We long for this to be *our* school, but we have come to terms that the physical buildings mean almost nothing when it comes to achieving this goal. But at the same time the avenues for socialization have been woefully neglected by Wesleyan. It’s all too easy to become trapped in a group, trapped in a major, trapped in an identity and you lose sight of why you wanted to come to a college like Wesleyan in the first place: to get out and experience things you’ve never experienced, to meet people you otherwise might not have ever gotten to meet.
And it sounds silly, I know, when you try to pull chalking into this. But there seems to me, with the popularity of Wespeaks, the ACB, bathroom graffitti, etc, that there is a real longing for pan-campus communication that we can’t seem to achieve. Part of that longing is what motivated Xue and I to create Wesleying in the first place. But in other ways, I see that longing manifest itself in chalking.
When I came to Wesleyan as a prefrosh, the streets, sidewalks, pathways were all COVERED in chalk. You couldn’t chalk because there was no ROOM. You could spend an entire hour walking from one side of the campus to the other just reading messages people had scribbled on the ground.
And as a prefrosh, I didn’t know anyone at Wesleyan but at the time I felt like I knew everyone because of chalking. I knew there are people who want to know me and there are people I want to know. There are feelings you can feel at Wesleyan and ideas people were sitting on that I wanted to know about, too. There were directions to parties and confessions of crushes and demands for my attention and political jargon and all kinds of fun things. Chalking came to symbolize everything I had wanted to feel, think, know and do at Wesleyan.
And when I matriculated the following year into the class of 2008, it was like I couldn’t find what I wanted. I felt very depressed about, in all honesty. And for a very long time I mopped about how Wesleyan was not how I thought it would be–and I partly blamed chalking for putting me in this position and its ban for why what I wanted couldn’t be found.
Then for a long time I just gave up trying to find the community I thought was here. I let myself retreat into my relationship and mountains of homework and said to hell with it. And that didn’t do the trick, either.
Then came Junior year. Xue and I started Wesleying in August, before school started, hoping at least some people would read it. We hoped there would be some kind of resource that the student body could use in building its community back up again. As more and more people started reading it and using it, a little tiny ball of hope started building up in me again and every time I hear someone talk about chalking or Wesleying or just something, anything that can contribute to good feelings towards each other, that ball gets a little bit bigger.
And even if that wonderful heady community I envisioned Wesleyan being as a prefrosh never actually existed, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be. And for me that’s reason enough to keep chalking alive.
So I thank you guys a lot just for reading Wesleying and I hope we’re doing our part in all of this, as well.