Permanent chalking policy put in place for Iowa State’s campus

A permanent ‘Chalking on Campus’ policy has been implemented as of Feb. 17.

Sage Smith

Effective Feb. 17, Iowa State has a permanent ‘Chalking on Campus’ policy that applies to all university students, staff, faculty, affiliates and visitors.

The fall 2019 proposed chalking policy and now the permanent policy came after Iowa State’s campus saw ‘chalking wars’ of people writing their opinions, crossing off words and rewriting to change the message, etc.

President Wendy Wintersteen told the Daily in early February that the excessive chalking happening around campus had taken away from Iowa State’s beautiful environment and became a kind of visual graffiti.

She said the policy goal is to respect the beautiful campus and that it was a question of aesthetics, how they wanted to be viewed and looked at in terms of “overall beauty.”

Ryan Hurley, sophomore in pre-business, is the president of Iowa State’s College Republicans.

“I mean, I think the worst aesthetic you can have is being sued,” Hurley said. “[…] It’s not a very good aesthetic to just ban freedom of speech.”

The president of Iowa State’s College Democrats is Sehba Faheem, senior in biological systems engineering. She said when the “chalking wars” began, it didn’t seem like anything too out of the ordinary as Iowa State has always had a “fruitful dialogue.”

“So at first, it didn’t seem like very much; it was just people chalking things, other people erasing things, and it was honestly kind of interesting to see what everybody was talking about, what they were doing,” Faheem said. “And then it just escalated to a really gross point, and there’s a lot of scary comments that were made on the ground that I was surprised were able to stay for as long as they did.”

Students have varying opinions on the chalking, whether or not it should be allowed and what restrictions should be in place, if any.

“To describe it in one word, it was just fun,” Hurley said. “This like back and forth, that’s what politics is about. It’s not just nobody can express these opinions, none of it at all. I think this was a really fun way to express your ideas, messages, things to that effect. Of course, there were some bad eggs that wrote some inappropriate things.”

Faheem and Hurley said some inappropriate comments they saw chalked on the ground included “smash the patriarchy” being crossed off and replaced with “smash the hook nose,” swastikas and HH.

“That’s not something that should be allowed in any public space,” Faheem said. “Especially at a public university; this is a university of the state of Iowa, and so they should not be allowing calls to Nazi ideology on the grounds of a public univerisity. That just should not happen.”

Students also had varying opinions on how the university chose to handle the chalking and policies put in place, first with the proposed policy and now the permanent one.

“We disagree with these messages, but the way to fight this, like hateful speech, is with more speech, in my opinion,” Hurley said.

Hurley said he thought the original proposed policy wouldn’t be that good of an idea, and now they’re in a lawsuit. He said it’s not looking good for the university, and he thinks they should have let the chalking die off naturally.

“Some people on the left are angry about [the chalking policy] because they feel it doesn’t go far enough,” Hurley said. “Or some agree with [College Republicans] that this is a restriction of the First Amendment.”

The reactions of the students being upset and wanting change made sense to Faheem, she said, and she didn’t really appreciate the university’s response to the initial chalking wars.

“I thought it was a little bit slow, but at the same time, that can be understood because they want to — if you’re taking the time to form a response, you want to make sure that response is good, you want to get the necessary information, you want to make sure it’s the most thoughtful response you can think of,” Faheem said. “And I don’t think the response, even after the time that it took, was really where it needed to be.”

Hurley said he would tell people to just look up and not focus on what is written on the sidewalks with chalk.

“Banning all of this seems like such an overreaction to this sort of thing,” Hurley said. “And it’s not really accomplishing anything in my opinion. […] It really just isn’t that effective. Plus, college is where you go to be exposed to different ideas, and some of those are going to challenge your worldview, but, you know, you can’t just be coddled your whole life, in my opinion.”

Faheem said one of the members of Students Against Racism proposed having faculty members stand where the chalking happened and hand out flyers, apologize to students and talk with and listen to them.

“That would speak volumes because they would be actively taking time out of their day to focus on students,” Faheem said. “I mean, that hasn’t happened. The most that we got was one kind of vague-ish email from Wendy Wintersteen about how racism isn’t good. So I think what the administration of the university doesn’t understand is we’re really just looking for some empathy. We understand that this is a difficult situation, and we’re putting you in a bad spot, and there’s maybe not that much you can do to change it, but we want to see that you’re fighting for us.”

The permanent ‘Chalking on Campus’ policy has specific areas of campus that chalking is not allowed, including within the Memorial Union plaza and memorial space and within the historical quad space defined as the plaza area south of MacKay Hall (north border), Union Drive (south border), Morrill Road (west border) and the sidewalk running immediately west of Curtiss Hall (east border).

The full details of the ‘Chalking on Campus’ policy, including the ‘Campus Map: Areas Where Chalking Is Prohibited,’ can be read on Iowa State’s Policy Library website.