If You Hate Chalk, Keep Scrolling [or Don’t]: WSA Passes Chalking Resolution


As you may know if you read the Argus or are just generally more well-informed than the slackers over at The Wesleyinger, the WSA recently passed a resolution advocating for an end to the chalking ban that’s been in place since 2003. Read the article itself for a quick-and-dirty history of the events that inspired the 25-2 vote a couple weeks ago.  You can see the resolution itself here, courtesy of sponsor and WSA member Scott Elias ’14, until the WSA uploads it to their website, but be warned – there’s a prominent date error at the top of the document that may or may not irk you. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to see the typical format for WSA resolutions, by the way, you may find the writing here amusing, infuriating, or both. Oh well!

WSA resolutions, if you’re wondering, have no binding “legal” force on the University, but as presented to administrators often are used to further discussions or enact real policy changes in accordance with the resolution (yes, real changes do actually happen because of resolutions). So, y’know, optimism and all that. Check out some words from Elias (you may recognize the style) on why this matters to some people (continuing under the cut):

I think most students when they hear that there is a chalking ban think its insane. So our purpose was to create a consistent communications policy that won’t preemptively restrict student speech, that will be more consistent with our institutional priority of advancing social justice, and that will put an end to the exorbitant cost of enforcing a broad ban– an easy and logical way to curb costs in an era of austerity in which we terminated need-blind admissions.

It is incumbent upon the Wesleyan Student Assembly to reflect the fervent desire of many for a more inclusive campus culture and improving areas in which we, as a community, have fallen short. And our policy on chalking is one example of an area in which we can improve. So it will be interesting to see what kind of leverage this resolution will have with the administration. I’ve met with various administrators and they definitely understand where we are coming from, but they fear that past concerns will manifest again, which, as I understand it, is their main reservation. But let’s not kid ourselves. The chalking ban isn’t the last bastion of social justice the university wants us to think it is. It brushes oppressions and micro-aggressions that occur at Wesleyan under the rug and is thus inconsistent and antithetical to our university’s institutional goal of advancing social justice.

The resolution sends a strong and resolute message to the administration and community that overturning the chalking ban is entirely reasonable and consistent with the prevailing rational consensus. We passed an alternative institutional mechanism to address concerns with chalking without maintaining the broad chalking moratorium. We can’t promise there won’t be “problematic chalking,” but neither does the current policy. The persistence of non-intimidating, non-hostile, non-offensive chalking despite the moratorium’s implementation demonstrates that the ban can’t really guarantee no chalking, and thus isn’t the remedy the university thinks it is. If there is chalking that contributes to a hostile work environment, maybe they have to wash it away, but they can still do that under what we propose. When the chalk doesn’t, there’s no logical rationale.

Instead, because the messages that have been chalked in recent years, despite the moratorium, have been largely around political issues on campus, a broad moratorium functions to curtail positive student activism and political speech. That’s wrong. That’s why we are calling for the termination of the moratorium on chalking on sidewalks, thereby removing the chalking provision from Regulation 15 of the Code of Non-Academic Conductceasing the practice of preemptively erasing/washing away chalk and allowing chalk to be subject to the same communications policy/regulations as other media. And that’s why we are recommending the use of technology to facilitate a reporting process and ensure that if there is negative dialogue via chalking it is documented in the Campus Climate Log.

I’m hopeful that the administration will at least agree to a temporary trial period lifting the moratorium, giving the community an opportunity to demonstrate that chalking can be legal, responsible, and a mode of expression that can compliment the Wesleyan experience for those who choose to participate in chalking.

Seeing as I’m putting up the second post on chalking in about 24 hours, by the way, this may be a good place to address a comment on Zach‘s last post, where “alum” notes that theystill don’t understand the obsession with chalking…“. First of all, I am so0oOo0oOo0 deeply hurt by the idea that Zach and I are “obsessed” with chalking that you should actually ignore the entire following commentary, because it’s just my fists slamming into my tear-drenched keyboard. But if you’re ~illogical~ and }*irrational*{ enough to read anyway, you should know that the reason it looks like Wesleying has such a big old chalking fix is just that two of its most frequent proponents on this blog – Zach and myself – are chalking fans of above-average-but-decidedly-not-obesessive intensity (though maybe I should only speak for myself). Wesleying is a blog that (like anything else) reflects the perspectives of its contributors (direct and indirect) and readers, as well as its own historical practices, so the fact that we’ve written way more about chalking on here in the last year than we have about Music department-run concerts (and we’ve done way more student-run concert reviews and a capella auditions posts than either of these) may mean something, but not what you[, alum] think it means, since I’ve attended and thought about far more Music department-run concerts in the last year than I have participated in or thought about chalk happenings. Will what Wesleying cares about change with its authors? Yes. Should we be more responsive to criticism about our interests? In my opinion, yes, but it would help if issues were raised in a more substantive manner than offhanded comments about the fervent passions of the Generally Terrible People who write for this site. (It would also help if we reached out for constructive criticism. That actually should be happening soon.)

I’m going to end here because I’m writing this little editorial before writing up what this post  is supposed to be about and I have other things to do that I should stop putting off. But, uh, tl;dr Wesleying is a social construct. If you wanna know more about how the presentation of the chalking resolution to the administration worked out, hit up Elias or another WSA member, because I actually have no idea and the minutes aren’t up for any meetings that happened after this.

[If it’s news to you that we write about chalk a lot, check the ‘chalking’ tag for a whooooole lotta news.]

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7 thoughts on “If You Hate Chalk, Keep Scrolling [or Don’t]: WSA Passes Chalking Resolution

  1. Pingback: More Chalking Drama: Mystical 7 Names Chalked on Church Street, Scribbled Out | Wesleying

  2. alum

    Wow, didn’t realize I struck a chord. I didn’t imply to, though; it seems that I wasn’t clear. I didn’t mean to imply that Wesleying or specific editors of Wesleying were “obsessed” with chalking. My comment was more about Wesleyan in general – its institutional history. Why do (did?) students at Wes hold chalking in such high regard compared to other schools? Or am I mistaken?

    What do marginalized or oppressed people/groups, people wanting to make public political statements, or people wanting to play hopscotch do at schools like Oberlin, Vassar, Brown, etc.? Do they chalk? Is it an issue on those campuses? That is all I meant.

    1. Zach

      Interestingly, I think part of why chalking became such a big deal at Wesleyan was because it *wasn’t* a big deal at Oberlin, Vassar, Brown, etc—it was a uniquely Wesleyan tradition that had been especially embraced by queer groups and activist types. So when Bennet banned the whole practice, he seemed to be silencing not only political speech/queer expression, but also one of the institutional traditions that made Wesleyan Wesleyan, at least in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Students pushed back, because that’s also a pretty storied Wesleyan tradition.

      I wasn’t around in 2002/03, but I write this having interviewed a bunch of people who were. If you’re actually interested in perspectives on chalking at another institution, read this piece by Dan Abromowitz, a senior at Princeton: http://bit.ly/17ZKY08

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