Students at Emory University have been rankled by pro-Donald Trump chalkings peppered across campus. Around 40 students protested the administration building, arguing that the university has not done enough to distance itself from these markings.
"I'm supposed to feel comfortable and safe. But this man [Trump] is being supported by our students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well," one student said.
A writer for the website Decaturish, Dena Mellick, writes that some students compared the pro-Trump drawings to a previous incident when Emory students were jarred by swastika markings found on campus.
The university's president, James W. Wagner, initially said he would not release a campus-wide statement about the issue, but he changed his mind after meeting with upset students for an hour. "I cannot dismiss their [students'] expression of feelings and concern as motivated only by political preference or over-sensitivity. Instead, the students with whom I spoke heard a message, not about political process or candidate choice, but instead about values regarding diversity and respect that clash with Emory's own."
The episode has already elicited backlash from critics who decry college students' increasingly hostile attitudes toward differing, often right-of-center points of view. Additionally, the incident bespeaks the overly fragile culture of political correctness that has taken root on college campuses, in which students expect not only to be educated, but shielded from opinions that might offend their worldview.
Clay Travis of FoxSports wrote a scathing piece denouncing Emory's students for getting so riled up by the chalkings, and he mocked the creation of emergency counseling for students triggered by the pro-Trump scrawlings. Similarly, Robby Soave of Reason wrote a piece, albeit in a more measured tone, criticizing the university's response and questioning the value of college campuses discouraging political speech, whatever its message. Any kind of political activity, after all, is inherently educational, he argues.
"Still, if it's inappropriate to write âTrump 2016' on the sidewalk of a university, surely it must be inappropriate to write the name of any candidate or major politician. And if that's the case, the simple fact must be that political expression is discouraged at Emory," Soave concludes.
Nonetheless, others characterize the pro-Trump etchings as an act of vandalism designed to intimidate students of color, who view Trump as a kind of modern-day George Wallace. The Civil Rights-era Alabama Governor and eventual Democratic Presidential candidate employed demagoguery, bombast, and fear tactics to whip up the American electorate in the wake of the civil rights movement. Indeed, the student newspaper reported that individuals who wished to write messages on sidewalks must obtain prior approval from the administration before doing so.
The controversy at Emory is not the only incident as of late in which young people made headlines for clashing with the Trump campaign. Recently, college students, claiming their right to free speech, protested a Trump rally in Illinois, precipitating its cancelation. The activists invited a firestorm from critics who said that these students do not have a right to shut down others' right to free speech in the expression of their own.
The Trump campaign is increasingly a flashpoint for American students, and as Trump's delegate counts mount toward a Republican nomination, the tensions seem poised to increase.