The Daily Illini

University had appropriate response to pro-Trump chalk

By Ryan Harding, Columnist

Messages were written in chalk at the University’s Main Quad last week which were supportive of Donald Trump’s general campaign platforms.

“Build the wall.”

“Trump deportation force.”

“They have to go back #Trump”

“Trump Coulter 2016.”

Not surprisingly, many students were upset at these messages. While some students were generally displeased by the messages, others felt they disrupted the so-called safe space students require in order to function. Other students wrongly considered the messages to be unprotected hate speech that the University should not tolerate.

Fortunately, University administration sought a middle-ground response. Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson addressed the chalkings in a massmail.

“We value respectful discourse while also recognizing that offensive speech is protected by the First Amendment,” Wilson said. “The best recourse to speech with which we disagree is more speech: speech that clearly articulates a stronger and better argued point of view. Speech that represents the values we hold most dear. Speech that builds connections and shared understanding.”

For those students who passionately dissagree with Trump or his policies, take Wilson’s advice. The best response to speech you disagree with is more speech from your own perspective. Try to convince or debate someone on a message that you disagree with.

Do not try to silence those you disagree with by appealing to University administrators, who are often more than willing to regulate every aspect of college life, including speech, under the guise of safety and inclusivity.

Further, do not seek a safe space that shelters yourself from ideas you disagree with. Doing so only isolates you from ideas and experiences you may be unfamiliar with or may not have considered. College is about exposing yourself to ideas, people and philosophies that may be fundamentally opposed to your beliefs; learning about the unfamiliar is the only way to truly grow intellectually as a person.

In sum, do not shortchange your educational experience. College was once a place of academic rigor where young people challenged each other’s beliefs in order to fully develop intellectually. Now, universities are quickly becoming safe spaces where students are coddled by overzealous bureaucrats and where speech is stifled. Do not let this change take place — heed Wilson’s advice.

Ryan is a law student at the University.

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