Residential Life wrote messages in blue chalk on sidewalks across campus Monday night as part of its “Chalk it Out” event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but Bradley Facilities Management power washed some of the chalk from sidewalks the next day.
Executive Director of Student Activities Tom Coy said he made the decision to tell custodial staff to wash the messages away based on a chalking policy that was implemented after The Fray concert in 2014. Advertisements for the concert were chalked onto sidewalks and stained the concrete for eight months after the event.
“You have to use regular sidewalk chalk in areas where rain would hit that is not on the side of a building,” Coy said. “Unfortunately, Residence Life used a chalk-water mixture that did not come off with regular water usage.”
The chalk-washing decision was also influenced by complaints from numerous departments about blue liquid being trailed into buildings.
“There was paint being tracked inside, [and] there were handprints that were on walls inside Westlake [Hall] from people putting their hands in the chalk,” Coy said.
Coy said his decision had nothing to do with the actual content of the sidewalk messages.
“Despite I think it being an excellent marketing tool for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the information that came along with it, it just was not something that we would want our sidewalks permanently stained blue for,” Coy said.
After finding out who was responsible for the chalking, Coy said he explained the situation to Director of Residential Life Julie Howe.
“She was exceptional to work with and was going to communicate it,” Coy said. “She had told me again that they thought the mixture they made was something that would be washable in the rain and everything. It was an honest mistake.”
Harper and Wyckoff Hall Director Kelly Weigand said while the university’s “argument was that it wasn’t chalk, it is chalk.”
“It’s only chalk with flour and water,” Weigand said. “The flour and water don’t add anything other than it makes it into a liquid substance that you can blend and spread easier. They told us it didn’t come off with water or rain, which was interesting as they were power-washing it off with water.”
Weigand said Residential Life tested the chalk for a week in the parking lot behind Geisert Hall to make sure it could be removed.
“We support that they have made the decision that we couldn’t put it there,” Weigand said.
“It’s just unfortunate that [it] wasn’t explained or expressed to us at all. On the day of, people had to watch as statistics about sexual assault were literally power washed all day across campus.”
Heitz Hall Resident Advisor Logan Dowell created a petition Wednesday evening titled “Sexual assault can NOT be washed away” on change.org concerning the incident.
“I created this petition to show that I am not just going to stand by and let Bradley think that power washing it off is OK,” Dowell said in an email to The Scout. “I and others spent multiple hours chalking Bradley and am upset at the lack of clarification as to why they were washing it off.”
As of publication, the petition had 70 supporters. Other students turned to social media, such as Snapchat account “hilltopmadness,” to express their opinions.
Additionally, Residential Life planted multiple yard signs Wednesday in the grass near Cullom-Davis Library that read, “Can’t wash this away!” and “Show you care #SAAM.”
“We are trying to make a change,” Weigand said. “We hoped that the response would come from the statistics, but actually, it seems like the response is coming from the removal of [those] statistics. At the end of the day, it’s brought awareness to this topic.”