Students protested yesterday at the Emory Administration Building following a series of overnight, apparent pro-Donald Trump for president chalkings throughout campus.
Roughly 40 students gathered shortly after 4:30 p.m. in the outdoors space between the Administration Building and Goodrich C. White Hall; many students carried signs featuring slogans such as “Stop Trump” or “Stop Hate” and an antiphonal chant addressed to University administration, led by College sophomore Jonathan Peraza, resounded “You are not listening! Come speak to us, we are in pain!” throughout the Quad. Peraza opened the door to the Administration Building and students moved forward towards the door, shouting “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
After approximately ten minutes outside from the start of the demonstration, the gathered students were ushered into the Quad-facing entrance to the Administration Building and quickly filled a staircase to continue their demonstration. Pausing in the staircase, a few students shared their initial, personal reactions to the chalkings.
“I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe [here],” one student said. “But this man is being supported by students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well … I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school,” she added.
“What are we feeling?” [sophmore ] Peraza asked those assembled. Responses of “frustration” and “fear” came from around the room, but individual students soon began to offer more detailed, personal reactions to feelings of racial tension that Trump and his ideology bring to the fore.
“How can you not [disavow Trump] when Trump’s platform and his values undermine Emory’s values that I believe are diversity and inclusivity when they are obviously not [something that Trump supports]” one student said tearfully. “Banning Muslims? How is that something Emory supports?” asked yet another.
Other students asked for improving diversity in the “higher positions” of the University, including the Board of Trustees and the faculty in general who should not be simply “diversity sprinkles” to improve statistics, as one student described it.
Grievances were not restricted to shortcomings of the administration. “[Faculty] are supporting this rhetoric by not ending it,” said one student, who went on to say that “people of color are struggling academically because they are so focused on trying to have a safe community and focus on these issues [related to having safe spaces on campus].”
[It has nothing to do with your being unprepared to perform college level work? Or lack the self-discipline to study, rather than whine about your “feelings? – Ed]
While Wagner initially stated that he would not be writing a University-wide email regarding Trump, after over an hour of discussion in the board room, he appeared to have decided to begin working on an email concerned with at least the chalkings, at which point he gently wrapped up the conversation so that he could begin drafting it.
Assistant Vice President for Community [ wonder why college costs so much? Look no farther than the fact that the position of “Vice President for Community” exists] Suzanne Onorato, who was also present during the protest and suggested that she would look into hosting a forum for those involved, agreed with Wagner’s sentiments. “I think it’s wonderful that students are taking a stand for something that they’re passionate about, for something that’s so much about themselves — and we want to support that,” she said in an interview with the Wheel.
The chalkings that generated such controversy appeared overnight throughout Emory’s campus. College junior Harpreet Singh said that, initially, he did not find the chalkings significant. “I saw one big one, ‘Trump 2016,’ so I thought it was an isolated incident and I didn’t think much of it,” he said. “I thought, ‘Okay, it’s just a guy who wants to write whatever he wants to believe in for his political campaign.’ I was like, ‘Okay, I’m fine with that, to a certain extent.’”
The University will review footage “up by the hospital [from] security cameras” to identify those who made the chalkings, Wagner told the protesters. He also added that if they’re students, they will go through the conduct violation process, while if they are from outside of the University, trespassing charges will be pressed.
Organization and coordination of the protest appears to have fermented in individual student groups independently of one another. Singh, who participated in the protests, also had a part in their planning. While he said that each group or community held their own discussions on the chalkings over social media, he noted that “[he] also reached out to the Muslim community” and that several of these students attended the gathering.
While the University has not released an official response as of press time, Donald Trump obviously remains a flashpoint for many students, but according to Singh there is comfort to be found for those who feel oppressed. “For the students, it’s reassuring to see how they are able to voice out their opinions and, although it might be safe [sic] or uncomfortable, we know that we have a community behind us, whether that be the Latin community, the Muslim community or the black student community — there are pools of safety we can go to,” Singh said.