Don’t regulate chalking

I am skeptical of any efforts to limit the ability of student organizations, or even individuals, to chalk our University campus, as addressed in the Dec. 10 “U officials might adopt a chalk policy to eliminate ‘distasteful chalking'”. University officials counter with the claim that it undermines their campaign to support a “Beautiful U.” What? One of the best aspects of the University is the diverse set of opinions and the freedom to express them.

For most student groups, chalking remains one of the most effective ways to spread their message. All it takes is a few dollars worth of chalk, a negligible amount of artistic ability and the willingness to spend some time crawling around on the ground to make a message thousands will see on a daily basis. (By contrast, it takes hundreds of dollars to acquire a one-time usage right for the residence hall mailing list.)

One of the unique benefits of chalking is the current lack of regulation concerning it. If the University were to regulate (read: censor) this practice, it would have a series of unintended consequences.

First, it would simply create more bureaucracy in an already exceedingly bureaucratic system. Before long, it will take weeks of time, require an application fee and a small herd of pink elephants to obtain a coveted permit.

Second, this process allows the University to censor messages it might deem critical of the University, lest any potential student be exposed to the subversive ways of the University’s student organizations. Who determines exactly which messages are offensive? What if I am equally offended by a poster that has been placed on one of the many bulletin boards around campus? Should student organizations need to ask for approval for their posters too?

Third, it creates a dangerous precedent of University regulation where regulation should not be allowed.

Chalking provides an effective way for students to express their opinions and publicize events. Any policy regulating chalking only seeks to undermine these values in lieu of more control and nebulous aesthetic values and should therefore be rejected.

Ryan Black, president, University Parliamentary Debate Society