I walked down to the Forum on Monday to see all the hoopla about abortion. I was greeted by a forum covered in pro-choice chalk slogans and visuals of aborted fetuses. After four years at Richmond, I finally felt enlivened and not locked in the bubble.
A trip around campus presents one with a sterile world of austere brick walls and a manicured landscape: nothing is out of place, and everything is uniform.
This landscape mirrors the social fabric of Richmond with uniformity: heteronormativity, de facto dress codes and superficial discussions.
Our campus forum is just a brick expanse used for fundraising or special events. It isn’t like the traditional forums, bustling with conversation, politics, readers, actors, community or anything else.
Instead, it is just a thoroughfare, a misnamed space, a holding space, or simply a concrete lawn. The soapbox is lodged underneath limbs so one cannot stand on it comfortably to share a message.
The campus has strict rules about off-campus solicitation so that we have become like a gated community, shut off from the world, its issues and its people. Why even have a Principle IV, Community Engagement, in the Richmond Promise when we only let engagement occur under our rules, authority and acceptance?
Over the summer, the administration will surely form committees to craft new policies about chalking, protests and posters. Time, energy and money will be spent to design away protests and lessen community discourse.
This energy could be invested more fruitfully in ending rape on campus, which victimizes 25 percent of our community’s women, according to the new poster campaign from the Weshampton College Dean’s Office. Some of these chalk slogans have directed discourse at rape through preventative and educational messages.
The university has already crafted policies that stifle and regulate creativity. It already requires numerous hurdles for art installation projects on the campus; this committee didn’t consult students, even though the rules would directly impact their work.
Yet, we have ghostly vending machines with television screens, motion detectors and videos that demand our attention and engagement. We ultimately become consumers and not producers: We can’t produce discourse without administrative approval. Banners and posters are being replaced with pixelated television signage that imposes word limits, approvals and display time and removes any touch of the human hand.
I wonder why administrators and students are so worried about chalk. Do our overlords see that we are awakening and beginning to question the status quo? We never experienced the student revolutions of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Similar to the Occupy Movement where tents symbolize awakening, chalk is the gunk in our morning eyes.
Imagine if we actually occupied the forum and demanded reforms against racism, sexism, homophobia, and more! Are we unsure of the power that we actually hold? Our northern comrades at Concordia University understand it, as they have shut down Quebec in response to tuition hikes.
I hope students have actually visited the forum and engaged in dialogue. Even though the slogan and imagery may have been despairing, they were ultimately true. As the War on Women continues in the General Assembly and across the nation, the issue of abortion won’t go away.
Our community begins to mirror the issues in the city, such as chalking at Belle Isle, art displays on Monument Avenue and Occupy RVA. We graduate into a world filled with issues, discourse, violence, protests and dreams. We must engage, not only in the forum with chalk, but with rallies, art, protests and such throughout our college careers to ensure we fulfill the Richmond Promise and our own commitments to humanity’s future.