Appalachian State University is restricting unauthorized students from chalking on its sidewalks following a controversy over racially charged messages written around campus.
The confrontation ensued after minority students attempted to wash away the chalk, prompting a conversation about free speech on campus. The incident led to heightened safety concerns, said Megan Hayes, ASU spokesperson, in an email.
The decision, a revision of the school’s facilities policy, limits the use of chalk to the promotion of student organizations and university events. Under the policy revision, unauthorized chalk writing is considered graffiti.
According to a university press release, the revision is part of an overall dialogue about inclusivity.
“We are an institution of learning and a marketplace of ideas, and a campus that doesn’t just permit but actively encourages our population to engage in dialogue about sensitive topics.” UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli said in the email.
Reactions to the changes from the ASU community have been mixed, Hayes said. Some students believe the revision hinders free speech while others believe it’s a step in the right direction to creating a safer learning environment.
Finding a balance between creating an inclusive campus and protecting free speech can often be difficult for universities, said Bill Marshall, law professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.