“The Chalkening”: Trump Supporters Leave College Campuses Covered in Controversial Messages
Posted By Abby Perkins on April 12, 2016 at 5:17 pm
The 2016 presidential election is already proving to have an unprecedented effect on college students and other young adults. Young voters are showing up to the polls for primary elections in record numbers. They’re also voicing their opinions in the form of frequent rallies for – and protests against – the five remaining candidates. And on both sides, the most vocal opinions seem to be congregating around one candidate in particular: Donald Trump.
Throughout the primary elections, Trump has been mobilizing student protesters at colleges across the country, who oppose his often extreme (and hateful, some say) rhetoric. In response, Trump’s campaign recently encouraged their college supporters to respond in kind – specifically, with messages written on campus walkways and buildings in chalk.
The idea, pitched on social media by Trump campaign social media director Dan Scavino and dubbed #TheChalkening, was quickly picked up by Students for Trump and popular college amd fraternity lifestyle brand Old Row. The result? Dozens of pro-Trump “chalkings” on college campuses in nearly every corner of the nation, including Alfred University in New York, North Carolina State University, the University of Nebraska, Arizona State University, and Ohio State University. All told, Old Row reports submissions of pictures of chalkings from more than 100 colleges.
Outlets like AlterNet and Newsweek have compiled some of the messages, which include “WE WANT THE WALL” and “BUILD THAT WALL,” a reference to the wall Trump plans to build between the United States and Mexico, as well as “TRUMP 2016” and “Make America Great Again,” Trump’s official campaign slogan. However, the chalkings took on an even more divisive tone on some campuses. At the University of Michigan, supporters wrote “#StopIslam” underneath pro-Trump messages. A group of white men wearing hoods were allegedly seen writing messages outside a student cultural center at UC San Diego, where graffiti like “Deport them all” and “The Mexicans will pay for it” was found. Supporters wrote “Deport all illegals” at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Other chalkings have reportedly included messages about Muslims, Jews, and the LGBTQ community.
College students and young voters tend to skew liberal. Wake Forest University professor Katy Harriger described them to Newsweek as the “Obama Generation,” also noting that they are often defined as the “most diverse” and “most tolerant” generation. However, incidents like #TheChalkening prove that there is still a strong conservative movement on college campuses – one that Donald Trump seems to be capitalizing on. And the student movement for Trump seems only to be mirroring the escalating rhetoric and even violence of pro-Trump rallies elsewhere, including attacks on protesters at Trump rallies in Albany, NY, Tuscon, AZ, and Fayetteville, NC, and more.
This issue is particularly relevant on college campuses, where the 2016 election has amplified the struggle of many campuses to balance free speech with creating a welcoming environment for students. Students at Emory University in Atlanta recently protested pro-Trump signs, saying that they made them feel unsafe. On the other end of the spectrum, conservative students (particularly Trump supporters) have said that they are afraid to publicly discuss their views, out of fear of academic consequences, ridicule and even assault.
In an interview with Newsweek, Ryan Fournier, the national chairman of Students for Trump and a freshman at North Carolina’s Campbell University, said, “If they want to violently attack us, I say go back at them. [. . .] Peaceful protest works to a certain extent, it does. But then once that doesn’t work and once every other option does not work, violent protest or whatever you want to call it comes into effect.” Fournier later clarified he did not mean to encourage Trump supporters to incite physical violence.
For more political coverage, see our special Election 2016 section.