WASHINGTON – The powers-that-be at Skidmore College in upstate New York seem to have read a lot more into the slogan of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump than just a call to “Make America Great Again.”
According to the news website The College Fix, the school’s Bias Response Group has now decided that the writing of the slogan on a few whiteboards on campus during the spring semester was a racially motivated attack.
The group’s year-end report also implicitly declared Trump a bigot, as it stated the slogan “is associated with the political campaign of a candidate widely known to voice anti-immigrant and bigoted views.”
Skidmore College is a private liberal arts college in Saratoga Springs, New York, with an enrollment of 2,632 students and a tuition of $48,970.
The Bias Response Group, or BSG, report said the messages were scrawled on three whiteboards, and it determined the first two were racially motivated because they appeared on the boards of two female faculty members of color, one with “immigrant parentage.”
The group said it “acknowledges that political speech is free and protected,” but “[t]hese seemingly connected reports suggest a pattern of using the idea of political speech to target specific members of the Skidmore community with biased messaging. As such, the [group] does not interpret these messages as political speech but as racialized, targeted attacks.”
The BSG report claimed “Make America Great Again” appeared on “multiple faculty whiteboards” after the “Chalkening” phenomenon went nationwide in April. However, the report also acknowledged that only “three faculty whiteboards have been targeted (that we know of).”
The group’s report stated a “majority of BRG members do not interpret these messages as political speech but as politicized, racialized, targeted attacks intended to intimidate.”
As The College Fix noted, the fact that only a reported majority concurred indicated “some on the group may have dissented.”
WND reported on the Chalkening craze in April as pro-Trump sidewalk art sprang up across the nation, prompting claims that it was terrorizing some students.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, cited a report that Emory University students “think Donald Trump is out to kill them” because of slogans chalked on campus sidewalks and walls.
“After the GOP frontrunner’s name was written in chalk on a campus wall, students said they ‘feared for their lives,'” the Daily Beast reported.
“Students say, they were ‘attacked’ by Trump’s name in large, pastel letters on campus walkways and buildings. ‘Vote for Trump,’ ‘Trump for Pres,’ ‘Accept the Inevitable: Trump 2016’ and more chalk sloganeering for the Republican presidential frontrunner was written all over the most trafficked areas on campus,” it said.
“I legitimately feared for my life,” claimed Paul Camila Alarcon in the report. “I thought we were having a KKK rally on campus.”
WND reported that dozens of students converged on Emory’s administration building to discuss the “pain” they felt over seeing Trump’s name.
Emory’s College Council and Student Government Association distributed email reports to their contact lists, and school officials told students they would hunt down surveillance camera footage to identify “suspects” to proceed with a “conduct-violation process.”
“I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe [here],” a student told school officials, the report said. “But this man is being supported by students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well. … I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school.”
College sophomore Jonathan Peraza asked a group of students what they were feeling, and they replied “fear” and “frustration.”
“You are not listening! Come speak to us. We are in pain!” Peraza exclaimed outside the school’s Goodrich C. White Hall.
FIRE’s Chris Marchese said “The Chalkening” now has spread to other campuses, listing the University of Illinois, Ohio University, University of California-Santa Barbara, DePaul, University of Michigan, Kansas, Connecticut, College of William and Mary and Tulane.
At Michigan, police were summoned because of the appearance of “Trump 2016” and “#StopIslam” slogans.
Michigan spokeswoman Diane Brown said, “We will continue to monitor campus and work with our campus partners to ensure our students have a safe environment to live, learn and dialogue.”
The school took immediate action, and reports were filed with the school’s “bias response team.”
“Attacks directed toward any member or group within the University of Michigan community, based on a belief or characteristic, are inconsistent with our values of respect, civility and equality,” Brown said. “… We are fully committed to fostering an environment that is welcoming and inclusive of everyone.”
At Tulane, a political slogan generated this comment from freshman Claire Cruz: “As a Latina on a mostly all-white campus, I am constantly seeing little acts of racism and white privilege, but this huge act was a slap in my face. Not only do I feel as if my safety has been threatened, but also my humanity is being completely written off.”
FIRE’s Marchese commented that “these chalkings wouldn’t be newsworthy if it weren’t for the responses they have received, with some likening such expressions to mass murder, and schools responding with promises of cracking down on speech.”
If speech is offensive, he said, the solution is not to restrict it.
“Indeed, the response to offensive speech should be more speech. But public universities like the University of California, San Diego, cannot respond to such expression with ‘the fullest sanctions.’ Instead, they should respond with the fullest application of the First Amendment.”
Also sounding off on the issue was First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh, whose blog “The Volokh Conspiracy” is published by the Washington Post.
He wrote of universities promising crackdowns, including San Diego.
“The university, as the owner of its property, might have the power to prohibit all chalking on that property. … But UCSD policy expressly provides that chalking is permitted ‘on sidewalks of the university grounds that are exposed to weather elements and not covered by a roof or overage.’”
He noted that “any attempt to punish the chalking precisely because of its viewpoint would clearly violate the First Amendment.”
Added Marchese: “FIRE agrees with Volokh’s analysis that if the school punishes chalking based on content, it violates the First Amendment. That is, the institution must enforce a chalking policy without respect to the expressed viewpoint.”
At the time, Breitbart reported the Trump chalkings had become “an epidemic” and noted the response is “panic among the regressive left.”