The message matters

Students involved in Residential Life wrote statistics and pledges in blue chalk across campus Monday night in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, only to have their messages washed away the next morning by Facilities Management staff.

The campaign was widespread, so much of campus noticed when workers started power-washing the blue from the sidewalks. Complaints to the Snapchat account “hilltopmadness” were posted, a petition was made and many took to Facebook to express their frustration.

We completely understand where this response is coming from. To see powerful messages of sexual consent and support for survivors being washed away without a reason is appalling and hurtful.

But there is a reason.

The blue chalk was mixed with flour and water, creating a substance that could be baked into the sidewalk by the sun. As campus saw back in 2014 with sidewalk advertisements for The Fray, this kind of chalk stains the sidewalks and sticks around for months on end.

Another permanent chalking incident happened years before that, and in looking at the brick around the Lydia Moss Bradley statue, a light rainbow design is still visible where the sidewalk had to be bleached.

Don’t get us wrong; messages encouraging sexual assault awareness are extremely important, especially now that we’ve seen the leader of our university be less than supportive of this topic.

But that doesn’t mean we can overlook policy or permanently stain the sidewalk blue.

And it certainly doesn’t mean the original message of Res Life’s campaign should be lost. But it was – the message of providing support to sexual assault survivors and educating campus about the issues was lost in the tug-of-war game that ensued between students and university administration.

Having petty arguments takes away from what this month stands for. So let’s stop being divided about the material of the message being washed away and focus on the message itself and what this month really means.