The chalk markings, which appeared on campus throughout this week, included messages such as “Trump build the wall 2016” and “Obama is a Muslim,” among others
Students paused Thursday as they walked by murals at North Hall depicting the Black Student Union takeover of the building in 1968. Rather than admiring the images, however, students were staring at the ground.
“Trump build the wall 2016,” “Obama is a Muslim” and “Muhammad fucked children” were among the slogans etched in chalk throughout campus, concentrated around the North Hall mural and South Hall, which holds the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. On the sidewalk in front of the Asian Resource Center was the phrase, “Currency is devalued.”
UCSB maintenance staff washed much of the chalk away by Thursday afternoon, leaving only blurred marks and puddles, but many students remained troubled by the aggressive messages.
“Given the climate, given what [Donald] Trump’s name has come to mean — that it’s connected to white supremacist groups with racism — I think that was intentionally targeting [minority students],” said Zachary King, a sociology graduate student.
Nihal Hakim, a third-year economics major and a member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), said the messages were an “isolated event” and warned of making a spectacle of the slogans.
“When these slogans and messages popped up, I wasn’t very concerned about who was saying these things because, at the end of the day, it’s just a handful of folks who were trying to be edgy or incendiary,” Hakim said. “I think giving it too much attention is giving them exactly what they want.”
Chalking sidewalks is a violation of the UCSB posting policy and can result in a maximum fine of $20 for a first offense.
The university declined to comment on the markings, but university spokesperson Andrea Estrada said in an email that “because of the numerous posting violations that have occurred recently,” the Office of Student Life (OSL) will be sending an email to all students reminding them of the posting policy and letting them know where to report violations.
Hakim said he was most worried about the marginalization of Muslim students on campus.
“These sorts of sentiments tend to snowball and catch an audience, but we at the MSA are confident — confident with Associated Students, with OSL, that these sorts of mentalities aren’t tolerated and that they won’t persist.”
The pro-Trump slogans first appeared earlier in the week, and several of them were edited, seemingly by other students, to say things like “Don’t Vote Trump 2016.”
Late on Thursday, two students could be seen chalking a large “Black Lives Matter” mural on the sidewalk outside of the Humanities and Social Sciences Building.
The president of Emory University in Atlanta was criticized in March by a group of alumni for what they said was his censorship of political speech after Trump’s name appeared in chalk throughout the campus.
The markings scrawled on the sidewalks at UCSB differed in that they were not just political endorsements and included lines such as “The wall just got ten feet taller” and “Sodomy = AIDS! Repent!”
Alejandra Melgoza, a MUJER co-chair and third-year Chican@ studies and sociology double major, said the chalk messaging “does not represent our student body at all.” As a tour guide and diversity intern in the Office of Admissions, Melgoza said she worries about prospective students seeing the chalk when they visit campus.
“It concerns me to have families and potential incoming students not want to enroll into our beautiful campus due to hateful speech they may see while they walk around our lovely campus,” Melgoza wrote in an email.
Timothy Irvine, a vice president of the Graduate Students Association, said the messages were not representative of the majority of students, but that they “severely damage the [campus] climate” and “undermine” the administration’s effort to make religious and racial minority students feel welcome.
“This is a good example of how what the administration is doing is not enough to override the existing system of hate,” Irvine said. “Culturally and socially, you need to have a lot of people responding to this in a healthy way, and I think you need administrators being a part of that.”
A member of UCSB’s Black Student Union said the group would publish its response to the chalk markings in the April 6 edition of its newsletter, Blackwatch, and members of El Congreso said they plan to send a letter to Chancellor Henry T. Yang.
Hakim said that many Muslims have seen a similar rhetoric in the media or online, but not necessarily at UCSB.
“Overall, this isn’t something that’s new to us,” Hakim said. “It’s something that we’re used to hearing. It’s new in the sense that this is the first time that we’re seeing it with our own eyes.”
He said UCSB should hold workshops in response to the chalk addressing how students can have a meaningful dialogue when they disagree. He said UCSB should continue to encourage free speech on campus.
“A $20 fine for chalking the ground is what it is,” Hakim said. “Rather than anonymous chalk on the ground, we need to face each other.”
A version of this story appeared on p. 3 of the Friday, April 1 edition of the Daily Nexus.