Early in the morning on Sept. 18, under the cover of darkness, people came onto campus to write politically charged messages in chalk for the nearly 20,000 students of UNCG to see. The event was playfully labeled “The Chalkening at UNCG,” and it is the latest in a series of spread out and largely uncoordinated attempts to protest a perceived level of censorship on predominately liberal college campuses by conservative students. The Chalkenings have been going on since last year, while President Donald Trump was still on the campaign trail and the political climate of college campuses across America was more confrontational than ever before in our generation’s memory.
Some light research into the key word “Chalkening” leads to a series of posts on the highly controversial subreddit r/The_Donald either attempting to organize new Chalkenings or posting the results of previous Chalkenings for the followers’ enjoyment. The headline for the post detailing UNCG’s Chalkening reads as follows, “THE CHALKENING AT UNCG! Tonight we stormed the campus—promoting free speech and alternative thought at the one of the most liberal schools in NC… freethecampus.com … tears will flow.” It is unknown if stormed is an accurate word, as this reporter had a difficult time tracking down anyone living on campus who noticed a large gathering of people moving from place to place writing messages.
The pictures included in the post showing what was chalked included messages such as “There are only 2 genders (stop denying science),” “Abortion is harmful to women” and “Black people voted for Trump.” Following links on the subreddit led to a website filled with variety of email-submitted articles responding to The Chalkening, including an explanation of the event published under the pen name “Prince Liberty.”
In said article, Prince describes the event as a free invitation for all to come and write their views across the concrete and pavement of UNCG. Prince then goes on to say that none of the organizers of the event chalked messages on campus and that they merely invited many students to come out at 4 a.m. to write whatever belief they felt like expressing. Despite these assurances, this reporter could find no examples of Prince advertising The Chalkening anywhere outside of r/The_Donald, a community made up entirely of Donald Trump supporters. Additionally, there was no evidence of what could be described as liberal points of view chalked on the ground.
The next day, the Chalkening was noticed by the campus at large and within the day most of the messages were removed.
What was certainly accomplished by The Chalkening was an increased alienation among the transgender population at UNCG. Zoe, a trans music major who lives off campus and saw the messages on social media, described the chalk messages as “…typical alt right activity. Common tropes like ‘go back to your own country keep America white’ and ‘there are only two genders stop denying science.’” Zoe went on to say that, “It scares me to know that people with these opinions walk among us,” and “it’s just exhausting, has led to a lot of trust issues for me and a lot of my friends who are in marginalized demographics.”