Report: Emory University students protest pro-Trump chalkingsMain Quad on Emory University's primary Druid Hills Campus. Photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons
Students at Emory University are upset over seemingly pro-Donald Trump for president chalkings on campus.
The Emory Wheel reports about 40 students protested Monday, Mar. 21 outside the administration building.
One student said, “‘I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe [here]. 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.'”
Sophomore Jonathan Peraza led a chant and called out, “You are not listening! Come speak to us, we are in pain!”
The students then went inside the administration building where they spoke with University President James W. Wagner and asked him why the chalkings had not gotten a quick response compared to when swastikas were found on campus.
The Wheel said Wagner initially said he would not write a University-wide email about the incident, but changed his mind after talking to the students for an hour. Decaturish obtained Wagner’s email to the university:
Dear Emory Community,
Yesterday I received a visit from 40 to 50 student protesters upset by the unexpected chalkings on campus sidewalks and some buildings yesterday morning, in this case referencing Donald Trump. The students shared with me their concern that these messages were meant to intimidate rather than merely to advocate for a particular candidate, having appeared outside of the context of a Georgia election or campus campaign activity. During our conversation, they voiced their genuine concern and pain in the face of this perceived intimidation.
After meeting with our students, I cannot dismiss their expression of feelings and concern as motivated only by political preference or over-sensitivity. Instead, the students with whom I spoke heard a message, not about political process or candidate choice, but instead about values regarding diversity and respect that clash with Emory’s own.
As an academic community, we must value and encourage the expression of ideas, vigorous debate, speech, dissent, and protest. At the same time, our commitment to respect, civility, and inclusion calls us to provide a safe environment that inspires and supports courageous inquiry. It is important that we recognize, listen to, and honor the concerns of these students, as well as faculty and staff who may feel similarly.
On the heels of work begun by students last fall and advanced last month through the Racial Justice Retreat and subsequent working groups, Emory is taking a number of significant steps:
· Immediate refinements to certain policy and procedural deficiencies (for example, our bias incident reporting and response process);
· Regular and structured opportunities for difficult dialogues (like the Transforming Community Project of several years ago);
· A formal process to institutionalize identification, review, and addressing of social justice opportunities and issues; and
· Commitment to an annual retreat to renew our efforts.
To keep moving forward, we must continue to engage in rich and meaningful dialogue around critical issues facing our nation and our society. I learn from every conversation like the one that took place yesterday and know that further conversations are necessary. More than that, such discussions should lead to action that continues to foster a more just and inclusive Emory.