Anti-immigrant messages on UI quad lead Wilson to remind campus of words' 'painful' impact


Anti-immigrant messages on UI quad lead Wilson to remind campus of words' 'painful' impact

URBANA — Defamatory messages scribbled in chalk near the University of Illinois Quad led Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson to remind the campus Wednesday of the “painful” impact offensive messages can have.

In a massmail sent to students, faculty and staff, Wilson addressed the topic that dominated campus conversations on social media — reports of messages such as “They have to go back #Trump,” "Build the Wall” and “Trump Deportation Force,” left near the UI’s Latina/Latino Studies building, apparent references to presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

Free speech is a familiar issue at the UI, where in recent years debate raged over the inflammatory tweets of would-be Professor Steven Salaita and the campus made national news over a purported “Illini White Student Union” Facebook page, possibly part of a national hoax.

“Throughout the academic year, we will see and hear perspectives that anger and even frighten us,” Wilson wrote in Monday’s massmail. “Last semester, we saw incidents in social media. This week, it was chalking on the Quad. We don’t know what the next issue will be, but we know there will be one. These are often painful moments for our students, faculty and staff and we need to support one another as we strive to address divisive issues in society.”

The letter, co-signed by Interim Provost Edward Feser and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano, noted that “we value respectful discourse while also recognizing that offensive speech is protected by the First Amendment.”

It went on to say: “The best recourse to speech with which we disagree is more speech: Speech that clearly articulates a stronger and better argued point of view. Speech that represents the values we hold most dear. Speech that builds connections and shared understanding.”

The issue of chalk scrawls on campus property with Trump’s name attached to them is one that’s come up frequently in recent weeks. At the University of Michigan, messages reading “#Stop Islam” and “Trump 2016” prompted students to call university police. 

Other, tamer messages — including a simple “Trump 2016” — sparked a backlash among some students at the University of Kansas and Atlanta’s Emory University.

In their letter, UI administrators reminded the campus that there are policies in place to ensure the physical safety of everyone. Acts of intolerance should be reported to the dean of students (at 217-333-0050, or anonymously via or the Office of Diversity, Equity and Access (217-333-0885 or 

UI administrators wrote: “When we learn of acts of intolerance, we convene our Bias Incident Investigation and Response Team within 48 hours to determine appropriate course of action.”


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Joe American wrote on April 06, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Does anyone want to bet lunch that if they're caught, you'll find out that the culprits aren't Trump supporters?

And a side bet for dessert, that they're Sanders supporters?

The Reader wrote on April 07, 2016 at 6:04 am

I'll take that bet. 

sanjuan wrote on April 07, 2016 at 6:04 am

And that they were dropped off by black helicopters piloted by people wearing tin foil hats?

CarlWinslow wrote on April 07, 2016 at 6:04 am

I'll give Interim Barb credit, she twice articulates support for free speech in her letter, and seems to keep the fawning over the fragililty of the gentle young minds of the student body to a moderate level.

Still, it would have been nice to see something in there regarding how the pain we feel at other people's words is a result of how we think about those words--those feelings are our responsiblity, not theirs. And because they are our responsibility, we have the power to dispute and change our thinking to achieve healthier and more productive feelings about them--a better way to go through life than recoiling in offense, anger, and fear at other people's words. 

Voice of Reazon wrote on April 07, 2016 at 9:04 am

CarlWinslow:  Excellent points.  Why in the world should Latinos feel insecure about Donald Trump in any aspect?  Unless you are in the country illegally, he hasn't said anything about you.

The entire discourse about "microaggressions" and "safe spaces" is just a big exercise in navel-gazing, IMHO.  I don't really care much about anyone's hyper-sensitive reaction to unremarkable words or speech.  Be offended all you want, bt your personal reaction is really YOUR problem.

Thank you, U of I, for not totally capitulating on this one.  


IlliniwekMerica wrote on April 07, 2016 at 1:04 pm

This is a fantastic comment. I've been looking for a way to articulate this thought for awhile and you do it perfectly.

The best way to combat something you find offensive is careful thought and clear open debate. Blind censorship or rejection of ideas has become all too common on University campuses across the country.  

Matt Mason wrote on April 07, 2016 at 8:04 am

Another set of offensive messages with "painful" impact: Those referring to Hillary Clinton's definition of women's health and reproductive rights, which alludes to the right to kill unborn children. 

oasomera wrote on April 07, 2016 at 8:04 am
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It's too bad Trump won't get a chance to make losers of us all. He's all about shorting anyone he deals with, a seemingly core Republican value, but it's not looking as if the GOP is willing to let him have the candidacy anyway. Apparently he's being too aboveboard for the old guard. As a result these scrawls on the sidewalk might be as far as his influence ever gets. 

For me it's a pleasure to see bright, energetic Latinos on campus. This is pretty hostile territory and so I admire their courage and determination. But they need to keep in mind that conservatism is mostly about trying to keep things simple so that some people aren't overwhelmed. And the result is people too ignorant of their stupid incursions into other countries to see the irony of their own complaints.

Like my mother used to say, don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed.

max_zilla wrote on April 07, 2016 at 9:04 am
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sanjuan nailed it. Every time a trump supporter does something nasty his people immediately decide it's a false-flag from a filthy lib rather than admit that trump's rhetoric might attract an aggresive sort, even if only in minority. Like writing 'build the wall' - must be a bernie supporter! Trump would NEVER support building a wall!' no dude, you're reaping what you've been sowing. these are your crowd.

wayward wrote on April 07, 2016 at 12:04 pm

In the primary election this spring, Donald Trump got 7713 votes in Champaign County.  That's out of a total of 26592 GOP ballots cast, and 59003 ballots cast overall.

Trump lost to Cruz in Champaign County and got less than 30% of the GOP votes, and about 13% of the overall votes for president.  In a nutsthell, yeah, Trump got some support, but it seems fair to say that most people in this county don't have much use for him.

IlliniwekMerica wrote on April 07, 2016 at 1:04 pm

And it's not like all Trump supporters or voters are deplorable people. There is a subset of our country who really feel disenfranchised and locked out of the economy due to manufacturing and other domestic blue collar jobs that didn't require higher education dissapearing since the 70s.  These are hard working people that are responding to that part of Trump's message rather than identifying with the sexist, racist, insensitvely viewed parts of his rhetoric.

I am in no way a Trump voter, but the slate of candidates is rough this presidential election and its clear to see the reasoning behind voting for each of these candidates. There's a lot of mental economic hurdles you have to jump to cast a Sanders or Cruz vote, and a lot to hold your nose about to stand voting for Hillary. 

wayward wrote on April 07, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Trade and jobs going overseas are legitimate problems, and I can understand why people would vote for candidates that they hope could do something about the situation.  But there may be no simple solutions.  In the 1950s, US manufacturing was in a very strong position because a lot of other developed countries were recovering from WWII.  So sure, a guy with a high school diploma who was willing to work hard could support his family at a middle class level.  Since then, it's gotten a lot more competitive.  I think that raising the minimum wage and at least refusing to give tax breaks to corporations moving jobs out of the US are good ideas.  But I don't think they'll bring back US manufacturing to the level it was in the 1950s.

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 07, 2016 at 2:04 pm

The comments were printed in chalk.  Rather than cry, wring hands, and make statements of concern, why not just wash the comments away with water?  The rains have probably already done it.   

The statements in the 60's were much worse.  Thankfully, the "scary" comments like "Trump 2016" are written in chalk.  Those who are offended can get a bucket of water, a rag, and wash them away.  These "aggressions" are childish.  There has been no fights between political groups on campus, and no need to call out the National Guard.  Maybe, the Draft should be reinstated to help all the boys, and girls grow up to become men, and women.  Age 18 to 21 in college now are considered "children" while their counter parts in the military are adults who die in combat.

mstook423 wrote on April 07, 2016 at 6:04 pm

What is the point of this statement at the end of the article. "Acts of intolerence should be reported to the dean of students .... or the Office of Diversity, Equity and Access." 

What is an act of intolerance?  Is that speech that you disagree with and might not be politically correct?

I thought the exchange of ideas and thoughts was supposed to be encouraged on a college campus.  The statement above makes me shake my head.  I thought tolerance applied to all speech even if you disagree or find it disturbing.  


rsp wrote on April 07, 2016 at 7:04 pm

Maybe they could get a climbing wall and challenge the chalk writers...make it into a charity event for La Casa or the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center. Instead of complaining make it an opportunity to do something good for someone else.

Every crisis is an opportunity. You can either hide under the sheets or change the world.