Chalking provides outlet for free expression

Chalking provides outlet for free expression

The University of Alabama is among the many colleges that allow students to advertise or promote programs and events by chalking the grounds. CW | Layton Dudley

Margaret Wilbourne

“Chalking is a great avenue for free speech because there aren’t any limits to what you can do,” said Chloe Fraser, a senior majoring in apparel design and human environmental sciences. “Granted, there’s some words [you can’t use], but as a whole, you can freely 
express yourself.”

Fraser is this year’s director of public relations for UA Dance Marathon, a student-run philanthropy that raises money for the Children’s Hospital of Alabama and is known for its chalking around campus.

“We use collaborative groups to get the chalking done; we’ll buy 10 boxes of chalk and then delegate those throughout different committees,” she said. “Then those committee members are in charge of different zones around campus, which is pretty much wherever is 
closest to where you live.”

Sam Gerard, a senior majoring in history and political science, is the president of the UA College Democrats. He agreed chalking provides an opportunity for student groups to freely express themselves on campus.

“Chalking is an excellent outlet for free speech, because it allows us to advertise for our meetings and events and demonstrate any of our artistic skill,” he said.

Because of this use of art as communication, Fraser said UADM encourages simple designs but ultimately gives control of the designs to members.

“Our strategy is that we just want something practical and successful, so that means not too many words and enough space,” she said. “We’ll give them words, but the rest is up to them creativity-wise.”

Chalking does have its limits, though. Some rules in the UA handbook regarding chalking include no chalking on concrete or brick pavers, the Ferguson Center plaza or the sidewalks surrounding the School of Law.

“Grounds can be sticklers – we’re not allowed anywhere that the rain can’t wash it off, like sides of buildings or the rise part of the stairs,” Fraser said.

As a whole, Fraser said chalking as a promotional move isn’t always the 
best tactic.

“I’m torn – sometimes it seems like a waste of time because of the Alabama weather,” she said. “We’ll chalk and then that morning at 3 a.m. it rains and all washes away, which is frustrating. Someone might also not stop to read the [chalked message] because they think, ‘Oh, it’s probably the same one I read yesterday,’ and keep going.”

Gerard also said there can be drawbacks to chalking.

“Chalking can have self-defeating aspects if there is any unforeseen rain or class cancellation for a prolonged period of time,” he said.

Rather than risk only using chalk to get a message across, Fraser said chalking is better used as a tool alongside social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.

“For example, we’ll include a Twitter handle [with the chalking] to allow people to go explore what we’re promoting,” she said. “Chalking is really just a stepping stone to more information.”

Gerard said the College Democrats have received good feedback from simple chalked messages.

“Being able to advertise for our organization through chalking has led to us having a lot of people join [our organization] because they saw our chalking,” he said.