Berry Administration responds to the political chalk graffiti written on campus.
Katie Fleming, Viking Fusion Videographer
With the 2016 Presidential Election around the corner, Berry students are actively exercising their right to choose and vote how they wish. For most students, this will be the first election opened to their generation, which creates a greater passion about the prospective candidates. As the presidential election has encouraged campaigning all over the country, Berry students have chosen to speak out through chalk writings on the campus’s sidewalks. While this started as simple phrases like “TRUMP 2016,” it evolved into harsher words about the political candidates. Many students were arguing this made them feel “unsafe” on Berry’s campus.
Berry College’s administration remained silent when the chalk first made its appearance. However, as the conflict grew, they formally sent out their stance on the controversy to the students.
After the issue reached its peak during the Student Government Association meeting on Tuesday night, Dean of Students Debbie Heida and President of SGA Tedric Palmer released a letter to students late Wednesday giving their thoughts on the issue.
“We are committed to being a campus that supports free speech,” said Heida and Palmer.
They openly argued all political campaigning was covered under the First Amendment; however, “profane dialogue will not be condoned regardless of the political message.”
The letter further stated, “Silencing political views that we do not like is a form of censorship that creates an unwelcoming campus in a different way, one that says you are free to express your opinions only if they are in agreement with mine.”
Berry’s administration did not endorse one political candidate over the other and urged students, “to be respectful in sharing your opinions with the greater campus community.”
Cecily Crow, Director of Student Activities, said she could not recall anything like the sidewalk chalk problem in her 15 years at Berry College.
“This is definitely uncharted territory for Berry’s campus,” said Crow. “The problem right now is that the lines have been blurred by what statements cross the lines and what statements do not.”
Berry’s Viking Code says sidewalk chalk can be used as a creative form of advertising. However, when the language becomes vulgar, it is no longer be viewed as advertising. The administration is currently in the process of discovering how “chalking” interferes with Viking Code.
Shortly after the negative comments were written on the sidewalk, a few Berry students covered the negative writings with positive messages about Berry College and its students.
“I do appreciate the people that came behind and said what they love about Berry,” said Crow. “I hope students will work through this and with administration to resolve the issue and continue to make Berry a wonderful campus.”
The administration are considering creating a Student Life Council committee to look further into Berry’s policies regarding controversial topics on campus, like the sidewalk chalk.