UNCW defends free expression after prof destroys Trump chalkings

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is responding to a professor’s vandalism of pro-Trump chalkings by reminding the community that contrary opinions are not threats.

Earlier this week, English professor Hannah DelaCruz-Abrams took matters into her own hands after encountering chalk messages that she considered “racist” and “hateful,” washing away the slogans and posting photos of the aftermath on social media.

UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli responded to the incident Thursday, releasing a statement emphatically declaring the university’s commitment to free expression and obliquely chastising the professor’s actions.

“It is important to recognize that there will be times when chalking offends or even upsets us, individually or as a campus that stands for respect, inclusion, and a diversity of perspectives and people,” he says, noting that “over the next several weeks, there will inevitably be an increase in expression, in many forms, about the candidates (presidential and others) and the issues at play.”

While asserting that UNCW “doesn’t just permit, but actively encourages...dialogue about sensitive topics,” Sartarelli also acknowledged that safety is a paramount concern, both for those engaging in expression and for those exposed to it. [Emphasis in original]

“I do believe it is important to note that not agreeing with an opinion shouldn’t be equated with feeling threatened by it,” he states, somewhat provocatively, but also mentions that resources are available “if you feel that an expression of an opinion poses a direct threat to you.”

In some respects, Sartarelli’s statement echoes the sentiments expressed recently in a letter to incoming freshmen from the University of Chicago’s Dean of Students, who pledged that the university would not provide them with safe spaces or trigger warnings, and would not cancel speaking engagements based on the views of the speaker.

[RELATED: You won’t find safe spaces here, UC dean tells freshmen]

“I take seriously my obligation as your chancellor to encourage free and open expression while treating each other with respect and dignity—not just in your political opinions but always,” Sartarelli continues. “This election season is a timely opportunity to illustrate our campus's regard for higher learning and the honor with which we approach the exchange of ideas.”

Campus Reform reached out UNCW to inquire as to whether or not Prof. DelaCruz-Abrams was being investigated or disciplined for her actions, but the university declined to comment.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AutumnDawnPrice