Chalk Day encourages free expression while some other colleges have squelched speakers to prevent violence.
By Collin Quezada
As students at this college express themselves by writing temporary messages on walkways during Chalk Day Oct. 2, support for free speech has waivered at other colleges around the country.
Chalk Day is sponsored annually during National Newspaper Week by The Ranger and the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Political science Program Coordinator Christy Woodward-Kaupert said several factors have contributed to this in a Sept. 28 interview.
“Free speech for me, not for thee,” Woodward-Kaupert said is the universally adopted sentiment among college students and the political speakers they protest.
Intolerance for free speech gained national attention after right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos’ scheduled function at the University of California, Berkeley was canceled by left-wing riots in February.
Since then, predominantly conservative speakers have struggled to hold events on college campuses without fear of violence.
Woodward-Kaupert believes that this shift from peaceful assembly to violent protest was instigated by a particularly controversial group of right-wing commentators, such as Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter.
“Berkeley is like walking to the zoo with a pointed stick,” Woodward-Kaupert said. “College is a place for controversial, thought-provoking discussion, not grounds for inciting conflict by spewing aggressive nonsense.”
This distinction is often blurred as “trolling,” defined by Merriam-Webster as “making a deliberately offensive online post with the aim of upsetting someone,” has become more widespread.
“In order for fire to grow, it needs oxygen — oxygen that is supplied by people that prefer conflict instead of productive academic discourse,” she said. “These speakers pick at low-hanging fruit and make inflammatory comments that, objectively, don’t translate into productive conversations.”
Woodward-Kaupert stressed that many individuals and groups attempt to force political perspectives down the throats of the unwilling when calm, civilized discussion is the proper avenue.
Berkeley, which birthed the Free Speech Movement in 1964, canceled Free Speech Week in September.
In April, Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald was forced by protesters to leave an appearance at the University of California, Los Angeles because of her critical views on the Black Lives Matter movement.
In late February following the Yiannopoulos protests, California State University, Los Angeles revoked Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro’s invitation to speak on campus about microaggressions, BLM, and safe spaces.
Although the First Amendment’s distinction of free speech can be limited, the right to express one’s political views in a public setting is guaranteed.
This college is taking steps in the right direction by holding Chalk Day, an event commemorating ideological diversity by allowing students to express their views in a public setting, Woodward-Kaupert said.
This type of activity embodies certain democratic ideals specified in the First Amendment, such as the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, she said.
“America is so beautiful because we have these freedoms. We have these liberties and we often take them for granted,” Woodward-Kaupert said.
“I love Chalk Day,” Woodward-Kaupert said. “Find a quote, a statement, or a sentiment that is meaningful to you and write it down.”
When public squares are utilized for individuals to express certain views, people allow others to “modulate their worldly perspectives through peaceful assembly,” she continued, noting the difference in productivity of debates versus arguments.