On Wednesday morning, students found the words “First Amendment” along with racial slurs chalked on sidewalks filtered throughout campus.
“Last night, an unknown individual or individuals chalked words on our campus that disparaged members of various racial and ethnic groups, including African American and white,” Mark Nelson, vice president for student affairs and vice provost, said in a statement the University released Wednesday afternoon.
“We believe that this could have been an attempt to assert First Amendment rights,” Nelson said. “The words were removed as soon as they were discovered.”
Dexter Strong, a senior majoring in religious studies, said he saw the remnants of the word “nigger” chalked on the Quad.
“I thought it was interesting to me and felt that the chalking stemmed from the situation that happened with Justin [Zimmerman],” he said. “My reaction to the chalking and the recent incidents was to let it roll off my back and try not to allow it to make me upset. I don’t think ignorant comments like that should be given a response, and I think the best response is no response. I think that by giving those persons a voice is similar to putting gas on a fire, than evading it with water.”
Joshua Berry, a junior majoring in psychology, said he saw some of the chalkings, and he said he continued walking and tried not to pay attention to the words as well.
“My reaction to the chalking I saw was just ‘Wow, there are people that are really taking this out of hand,’” Berry said. “I saw the chalking written in front of Gallalee Hall, and it appeared that people had tried to wash it off, but you could see they were writing the beginning of the First Amendment.”
The University’s statement continued to say that UA supports the First Amendment. However, the words were mean-spirited and unacceptable.
“As members of the UA community, the majority of our faculty, staff and students reject the notion that this type of behavior reflects our collective experience,” Nelson said in the statement. “As a community, we respect and value each member of the UA family, and I trust that we will make decisions that reinforce and reflect that commitment.”
Ashley Johnson, a junior majoring in journalism, said she witnessed maintenance washing off the words.
“I was walking right by the Round House, and maintenance was just scrubbing around their golf carts,” Johnson said. “UAPD came running up said something like, ‘We found more over here.’”
David Fernandez, a senior majoring in business management, said he was walking from Lloyd Hall to Bidgood Hall and saw the word “kike” first.
“Did I just see what I thought I saw?” Fernandez said. “I looked around to see if I could find some context.”
Fernandez said he saw “First Amendment” written near by the word and continued to walk over to Gorgas Library where he saw the word “nigger.”
“It wasn’t something I was really prepared to deal with at 9 o’clock in the morning,” Fernandez said. “It wasn’t the way I expected to start my day.”
After his class, Fernandez said he went to take a picture around 10 a.m., but the chalking had been washed away. Fernandez said he was disappointed in the chalkings but not surprised.
“Given the things that went on this weekend, I can’t say I didn’t expect it,” Fernandez said. “Definitely not the first time I’ve seen or heard something like this out in public. Don’t expect it to be the last.”
Strong said that he thinks the University is handling all of the situations properly.
“I think the University is responding to these incidences well, and I think they are handling it the way they should be,” Strong said. “The e-mails that have followed the incidences send the message to individuals that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. It means that those persons that seek to isolate others and make them feel lesser will face negative and warranted consequences.”
However, Fernandez said he felt that more needed to be done.
“People need to stop acting like it’s something new,” he said. “We need to make progress on this issue.”
Brittney Knox and Victor Luckerson contributed to this report.
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