Students question University’s removal of BLM chalk messages

Students+draw+on+the+cement+in+front+of+Alma+Mater+in+chalk+following+the+CC-ARC+protest+on+Aug.+28.+The+University+quickly+washed+the+chalk+drawings+away+after+the+protesters+left+the+scene.

Kenyon Edmond

Students draw on the cement in front of Alma Mater in chalk following the CC-ARC protest on Aug. 28. The University quickly washed the chalk drawings away after the protesters left the scene.

By Aliza Majid, Staff Writer

On Aug. 28, the Champaign County Anti-Racist Coalition hosted a march that ended in front of the Alma Mater on campus. Protesters used chalk to write statements on the ground and had various speakers at the event to voice out their concerns.

After the protest died down, University employees immediately washed off all the chalk statements.

“I remember I was walking with my friend and we were coming back to our apartment and on our way we passed the Alma Mater,” said Guadalupe Araiza,  sophomore in LAS. “We wanted to see if it was still there and pretty much all of the chalk that over 100 people did was gone.”

As videos and pictures of University workers washing off the chalk surfaced around the internet, people began to question the University’s actions and their response towards the protest.

University spokesperson Robin Kaler responded to the claims in an email: “Someone had chalked the area in violation of the Student Code’s 2-404 Chalking Policy, and workers were already scheduled to clean that chalk. The workers did not realize that more people had also chalked the area, so all the chalking was removed.”

The University’s response has not satisfied some community members. Fildaus Ibrahim, a sophomore in Social Work, attended last Friday’s protest. She felt the University has not done enough to support the movement.

“I would say the best thing they can do to show us that they’re supporting the community and not trying to silence them is take action and show us that they’re invested in what’s happening in the country by participating in the strikes and protests,” Ibrahim said. 

Regardless of the intention, Ibrahim’s view of the University has changed. She feels as if these actions spoke for themselves. 

“A lot of people aren’t taking the Black Lives Matter movement seriously, and it seems to me that the University is doing the same thing because they’re ignoring what’s very obvious and real,” Ibrahim said. “Washing down something on the road isn’t going to make it disappear. It just seems like they’re trying to silence the voices that have been silenced for a very long time.”

Many C-U students and community members have voiced their concerns over racial injustice through large demonstrations in the cities. Some individuals were concerned that marginalized voices were being silenced after last Friday’s chalk removal. 

The University clarified that it continues to support free speech rights and social justice for students as it does not intend to impede this development.

As Chancellor Robert Jones stated in a Massmail on May 30, “The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a community committed to the scholarship, engagement, equity, inclusion and leadership that dismantles systems that utilize power, privilege and violence to disenfranchise, diminish and destroy.”

The events of Aug. 28 have left an impact on the campus community and many hope that the University will become more active in supporting these issues in the future.

“I feel like there’s just so much more the University can be doing to help out the Champaign population because at this point … they’re feeding off of the community members and they’re pushing them out of here and prioritizing students over the resident population,” Araiza said.

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