Students, staff take turns erasing pro-life chalkings at WWU
- The Students for Life chapter at Western Washington University saw its pro-life chalk messages erased twice in the span of only a few hours earlier this month, first by student vandals and then by university employees.
- When confronted by an SFL member, one of the student vandals said the pro-life messages were "actively hurtful," a similar explanation to the one offered by a school employee, who said the messages were "provocative I guess."
- An administrator later told SFL that "a big miscommunication" was to blame for workers erasing the messages the morning after SFL repaired the vandalism, saying the school only removes writing it considers to be "hate speech."
Pro-life students at Western Washington University saw their chalk messages washed away twice in the span of only a few hours, first by student vandals and then by school employees.
According to Students for Life of America, the vandals were caught on camera erasing the chalkings around 7:00 p.m. on June 7, prompting the Students for Life group to re-chalk the area at 10:30 p.m., only for school maintenance crews to wash the messages away again the next morning.
A video recording of the initial incident shows an SFL member confronting one of the vandals, asking, “Is your plan to erase all of our messages?”
“Just the really sh**ty ones,” the female student replied, elaborating when pressed that “mostly we’re going for the ones that are, like, actively hurtful, mostly.”
The vandals repeatedly used traffic cones filled with water to wash away all of the pro-life messages, including those expressing empathy for women who have had abortions.
“This message here was from ‘Silent No More,’ which tries to help people who have had abortions, and are, like, hurting from them,” an SFL member pointed out.
When their chalked messages were erased a second time the next day, the pro-life students also confronted the maintenance crews responsible, only to be given a similar answer to the one offered by the student vandals.
One crew member explained that the messages were “provocative I guess,” adding that “they just said that there is a lot of chalk graffiti on the ground and go take care of it.”
Club Activities Coordinator Jennifer Cook subsequently sent an email to the club apologizing for the incident, saying, “it sounds like it was a big miscommunication (and misinterpretation by the maintenance person) and that they had been asked to wash off what had been there for a while, not understanding that yours is new.”
Cook acknowledged that the information “may or may not be helpful,” but assured SFL that administrators “fully support whatever you want to chalk,” and are continuing to communicate with the grounds crew about the matter.
“The only ‘provocative’ writing we would ask to be removed would be hate speech and we would be in communication about that,” she noted. “We might also work with you if it were specifically triggering but even that would not be asked to be washed away.”
According to its statement for Expression and Assembly, Western Washington University is committed to promoting “academic freedom,” as well as “freedom of speech, petition, and assembly,” and recognizes that these principles are “fundamental to the academic process.”
“The values and behavior of the campus community with respect to expression are informed not only by the law, but by a shared responsibility and commitment to treating each other with respect, civility, and empathy, including when discussing or debating controversial topics,” the school asserts.
In response to this controversy, Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America argued that the pro-life student group at WWU “should have the same free-speech rights as any other student group on campus.”
“The fact that pro-life messages about supporting women who were post-abortive or promoting adoption is considered too controversial by pro-choice students on campus is disheartening and indicative of the bias against pro-lifers in higher education,” Hawkins added.
Karlie Lodjic, president of Students for Life chapter at the university, also criticized the incident, saying, “the administration should strongly condemn this vandalism and should work to find the students involved and ensure they face punishment for what they did.”
Western Washington University did not immediately respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.
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