Messages written by an unknown person in chalk along the sidewalks around the Quad have sparked questions on the balance of free speech and insensitive remarks.
Using the pseudonym MidKnight Wrider, the person has written about topics ranging from the 13 U.S. troops killed in Kabul last month and President Joe Biden’s administration to Black Lives Matter and critical race theory.
Critical race theory looks at racial inequality from a legal standpoint as a systematic issue throughout the United States to keep those inequalities in place, according to Kimberlé Crenshaw, executive director of the African American Policy Forum and co-founder of critical race theory.
On Aug. 25 Slippery Rock University (SRU) removed the first chalking.
“Black Lives Matter Doesn’t Represent Innocence,” it said. Next to it, “Blue Lives Matter ROCKS!”
David Wilmes, chief student affairs officer, had the chalking removed after being informed by staff at Bailey Library because it violated the university’s chalking policy. The policy states all chalkings are removed unless done by a student organization or department.
Students removed two other chalkings on Sept. 2 and 3, according to Wilmes.
“We really don’t have control over what a student may decide to do to a chalk message,” Wimes said. “As a medium that is easily erased, it does not surprise me that others might erase chalk messages when they don’t like it.”
After the erasure on Sept. 2, a Twitter account allegedly ran by MidKnight Wrider posted a video of the messages smeared.
“What a disgrace to The First Amendment! I am deeply disappointed… ~MidKnight Wrider,” they wrote.
Alexis Gish, Slippery Rock Student Government Association vice president of diversity and inclusion, said divisive messaging has “no place on this campus.” She added that the Social Justice Committee, which she chairs, works to create an equitable and inclusive environment.
“I will continue to uphold this mission in my work, but would like to stray away from providing a platform to the party seeking such recognition,” Gish said.
While Wilmes said the messages only violated the chalking policy, Gish said she believes it is a violation of both the chalking policy and student code of conduct.
No formal investigation into the messages by the university or police is underway, according to the administration.
The Twitter account’s bio, created in August states, “MidKnight Wrider is a start of a Generation Revolution… Justice will be served!!! I stand by 45!”
The number 45 is in reference to former President Donald Trump. The account has also shared memes and quotes by Trump.
The Rocket reached out to MidKnight Wrider for comment on their position and the erasures but did not receive a reply.
Wilmes has asked that if the individual behind the writings felt their first amendment rights were violated, to reach out to him.
“SRU strongly supports the first amendment and our community members’ right to express their opinions,” Wilmes said. “However, we also believe that the best way to do so is to take advantage of existing opportunities such as attending discussion events on certain topics or writing a letter to the editor for publication in The Rocket.”
Nina Cipriani, editor-in-chief of The Rocket, said the newspaper accepts editorials from anyone in the community, but she has final say it what is published.
SRU President William Behre has not spoken publicly about the writings like he has with past incidents.
Robert King, Chief Communication and Public Affairs Officer, said in an email, Wilmes comments are on behalf of the university and “his comments stand for the institution.”