DePaul says no more political chalking in response to pro-Trump messages
DePaul University will no longer allow students to chalk political messages on the sidewalks of its campus because of the “offensive, hurtful, and divisive” nature of pro-Trump chalking found on campus last week.
“While these chalk messages are part of national agendas in a heated political battle, they appeared on campus at a time of significant racial tension in our country and on college campuses. DePaul is no exception,” Depaul’s vice president for student affairs Eugene Zdziarski wrote in a campus-wide email obtained by Campus Reform. “The university has been addressing campus climate issues in an effort to provide an inclusive and supportive educational environment. In this context, many students, faculty and staff found the chalk messages offensive, hurtful and divisive.”
"...these chalk messages... appeared on campus at a time of significant racial tension in our country and on college campuses."
Consequently, Zdziarski explained that DePaul’s status as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit organization prohibits students from participating in any political activity that could be interpreted as a reflection of the university’s “views or opinions.” Political chalking on Depaul’s grounds, Zdziarski argued, fits this description.
“However, as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit organization, the university is significantly limited in the types of political activities it can promote or support,” he wrote. “In accordance with federal regulations, DePaul may not engage in any activity in support of or opposition to any candidate for public office, federal, state or local. In practice, this means no partisan political advertising may be conducted on campus that could in any way be attributed to DePaul University.”
Last week, Depaul’s College Republicans organized a chalking
campaign on campus, during which phrases such as “Make DePaul great again,” “Blue Lives Matter,” and “Trump Train 2016” were scrawled on the sidewalks.
The campus grounds crew removed the chalkings the following morning but cited routine maintenance as one of the reasons for their removal.
“After some investigation, it turns out this happened for two reasons,” the university wrote in a statement. “First, the crew regularly cleans up chalk messages on our sidewalks. This is a part of their duties. Secondly, some among the crew considered the messages inflammatory. The crew has agreed to consult about such matters in the future.”
Although the grounds crew “regularly cleans up chalk messages,” meaning DePaul students regularly chalk their campus’ sidewalks, this appears to be the first time university officials have expressly addressed their chalking policies. Zdziarski noted, after the Trump chalkings appeared, that students are not even allowed to chalk on sidewalks at all.
“Students or student organizations may not post partisan political flyers, posters, signs or images on University bulletin board, buildings, electronic message boards, forums or sidewalks. This includes chalking on campus property,” he said.
Campus Reform reached out to DePaul to ask why university officials chose to respond to this particular chalking instance despite claims that chalking “regularly” occurs on campus. No response was received in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski