Chalking policy addressed in new committee

by Avery Boulware, Campus Carrier News Editor

In light of the chalking incidents that occurred last semester, students and faculty from the student life council, as well as other groups, have come together to form a subcommittee to discuss chalking policies on campus. 

The committee was formed by Dean of Students Debbie Heida in response to the chalkings. She charged the group with considering policy that addresses who can write chalk messages, where they can be written and who can remove them. Heida did not tell the committee that they must continue to allow chalking on campus at all, but the group decided early on to allow it.

The committee has met several times since the chalking incidents and has formed a draft of their proposed policy for dissemination and review into the community through clubs and organizations as well as faculty members.

“At this point the committee is trying to collect feedback, so we can make sure this is a policy that a number of people feel good about or to see if there is something we are missing,” Assistant Dean of Students Lindsay Norman said.

The committee was formed in hopes of respecting students’ freedom of speech while also representing the college well.

“We had promised at the start that this committee would work as transparently as possible and share it with faculty, staff and students,” Heida said.

After feedback, the draft will be revised and sent to the cabinet and then to the president, where it will either be implemented or denied.

“While we do have a policy that outlines and frames language on our campus in terms of harassment or freedom of expression, we didn’t really have anything that spoke specifically to the use of chalk or written messages,” Norman said. “We felt strongly that we needed to tell our community how they can use chalk as a part of their freedom of expression, or how they may not use chalk.”

The nature of chalk messages presented a unique challenge to the committee because of their relative permanence, depending on rain or removal by a student in the event of a controversial message.

“Obviously if there was anything permanent, that would fall under vandalism,” Norman said. “But chalk is weird. It’s not a flyer, but it’s not vandalism.”

Members of the committee brought versions of similar drafts from other universities and institutions. The committee then compared these policies and created one that they believed would suit Berry best.

“We tried to look at colleges that are related to us in size and mission,” Norman said. “What works for the University of Georgia might not work for us. On a big campus like that it is impossible to keep up with everything that happens. On our campus, that’s not the case.”

The committee worked to maintain students’ right to expression as stated in the Viking Code:

“Freedom of expression does not include the right to intentionally and maliciously aggravate, intimidate, ridicule, or humiliate another person. The Berry College community embraces both the goal of protecting its members from harassment and the principle of free speech in a place of learning. In attempting to balance the two sometimes conflicting values, Berry College expects community members to hold themselves to high standards that are needed for a healthy community.” 

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