Emory president responds to chalk incident with chalking of his own
Despite pressure from students, Emory University President James W. Wagner has reaffirmed his school’s commitment to free speech.
After “Trump 2016” appeared in chalk on the sidewalks of Emory University’s campus early last week, students and staff were in an uproar over the “genuine concern and pain” caused by such “bigoted opinions.”
Some students demanded a response from Wagner, and went so far as to disrupt a board meeting to ask that he “decry the support for this fascist, racist candidate.”
On Friday afternoon, however, Wagner stepped out on to the quad to discuss the issue with students from Emory’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter, who spent the day petitioning in support of students’ right to free speech, and Wagner himself joined in.
A video obtained by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) shows Wagner taking a piece of chalk from the student petitioners and adding his own message to the sidewalk last Friday.
“EMORY STANDS FOR FREE EXPRESSION!” Wagner scrawled on the very same sidewalks where “Trump 2016” was written.
Alex Reibman, YAL chapter president, told Campus Reform he and his peers were initially concerned with how the administration would respond.
“The media has reported that Emory’s administration wants to find and persecute the people responsible for writing Trump everyone on campus last Monday. Emory claims to place a very high value on freedom of speech, but this recent controversy has thrown that into question,” Reibman said.
But after a daylong demonstration in support of free speech, Wagner came in support of his students’ First Amendment rights.
“We [were] doing this to reaffirm Emory’s commitment to freedom of speech and expression,” Reibman added. “By no means would writing Trump in chalk ever be considered so severe that it could be considered harassment.”
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