The university, as owner of its property, might have the power to prohibit all chalking on that property (whether or not the state has the power to do the same as to ordinary public sidewalks). But UCSD policy expressly provides that chalking is permitted “on sidewalks of the university grounds that are exposed to weather elements and not covered by a roof or overhang.” When I asked Provost Evans about this, he stated that “The code permits chalking sidewalks, but not walls. The latter is viewed as vandalism,” and in response to a later email confirmed that he thought the chalking also appeared on walls. But his statement mentioned “chalking . . . on the sidewalks,” with no reference to walls; the statement thus seems to me to implicitly convey to students that chalking such slogans on sidewalks is forbidden. Likewise, the UCSD statement on the matter mentions only sidewalks:
A series of incidents occurring on college and university campuses across the United States have reflected our nation’s current divisive political climate. Unfortunately, late Friday evening graffiti promoting the deportation of undocumented immigrants and the construction of a wall on the border of Mexico was discovered chalked on UC San Diego’s campus sidewalks. This graffiti runs counter to our campus values of equity and inclusion. We value diversity and respect for all cultures.UC San Diego is steadfast in the commitment to our Principles of Community which reflect a collective dedication to a campus where we uphold each individual’s right to dignity, justice and respect. We affirm the Principles of Community as the guide for all campus citizens as we move forward to foster the best working and learning environment.UC San Diego Chancellor, Executive Vice Chancellor and the Vice Chancellors
Perhaps the chalking was on sidewalks that were covered by overhangs, and thus forbidden; when I asked Provost Evans about this, he referred the matter to the Chancellor’s Office, and when I asked them, they just forwarded me the chancellor’s statement that I just quoted. But even if the chalking was on sidewalks that are under overhangs, I wonder what the “fullest sanctions” would normally be — setting aside the viewpoint of the graffiti — for what strikes me as such a fairly technical violation.
Of course, maybe the provost’s statement should be read — especially in light of the general policy allowing chalking — as suggesting that this particular chalking violated the Code of Conduct because it was “offensive,” tried “to sow division by stigmatizing certain populations or communities,” and contained “gross insensitivity” and lack of “greater multicultural understanding.” But any attempt to punish the chalking precisely because of its viewpoint would clearly violate the First Amendment.
I should note that the UCSD College Democrats statement mentioned in the San Diego Union-Tribune article also reported that the chalking included “Fuck Mexicans.” That phrase, like “Fuck the Draft,” would be constitutionally protected speech (at least when not said face-to-face to someone who is likely to be insulted, see Cohen v. California (1971)), but I do think that it would merit condemnation.
But the photos in the article didn’t include that, Provost Evans’s message didn’t mention that, and the UCSD statement didn’t allude to it. If any of you have more details on the matter, please let me know; but it sounds like the provost is trying to communicate something about the messages that he mentioned — “build the wall,” “deport them all,” “Mexico will pay,” “make America great again” and “Tritons 4 Trump” — and not about the message that he didn’t mention.
Thanks to Tim White for the pointer.