Students at Emory University were the subject of some ridicule last week after protesting that pro-Donald Trump messages written in chalk around campus left them “in pain.” University administrators and students have taken several steps since then to respond to the protests, but criticism of the students continues.
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an Emory alum, wrote on Twitter Thursday that he’s worried about the “fragility and timidity” of some students. “In the age of ISIS how can a name in chalk be frightening?” He followed up with one more tweet on the matter:
Emory has me worried because i thought college was a place to grow up and explore ideas not a place to hide and be intimidated by trivia
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) March 31, 2016
University president Jim Wagner met with the students and sent a campus-wide email broaching the matter last week, pledging to promote a “safe environment” at Emory.
Then on Friday, Wagner stopped by a table on campus where members of the Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian group, were collecting signatures for a petition that asks the university administration to clarify free speech protections on campus. Wagner wrote his own sidewalk chalk message next to their table: “Emory Stands for Free Expression!”
The Young Americans for Liberty over the weekend created a whole new round of chalk drawings and messages on the campus, Inside Higher Ed reports. Their drawings included messages of support for all of the remaining Democratic and Republican presidential candidates — including a picture of Trump with the message, “Make Emory Great Again.”
Alex Reibman, one of the event organizers, told Insider Higher Ed that the new chalkings were “a counterprotest to show that students are capable of handling chalk and that we stand for freedom of expression.”
Meanwhile, Ajay Nair, the dean of campus life at Emory, published a column in Inside Higher Ed this week to put the controversy “in context.”
“In the context of a college campus, we thrive on open and civil dialogue, inviting even the most controversial perspectives and remarks,” he wrote. “The college setting is a laboratory where students may, for the first time, grapple with such issues. Those conversations by their very nature can be difficult and must take place in a safe environment that is inclusive and guided by mutual respect and civility.”
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