Racial tensions on Illinois College are high after opposing groups clashed over sidewalk chalk art. According to sources who wish to remain anonymous due to retaliation, students involved with the Black Student Union went around campus Sunday evening writing sayings and symbols from the Black Lives Matter movement and in support of Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden on campus sidewalks in chalk.
An opposing group allegedly then were caught on video on Monday erasing the messages, dumping water on the messages, and writing over them with disparaging remarks according to several Facebook posts, pictures, and videos. The group also verbally attacked a few black students. In retaliation, the Black Student Union members went back out late Monday night and re-chalked the sidewalk with even more messages.
Several students took to social media expressing a lack of safety on campus as well as a lack of diversity and respect on campus. The students called on Illinois College’s administration to step in to quell the hostility.
On Tuesday, in email messages obtained by WLDS, Dr. Barbara Farley addressed students in a campus-wide email calling the situation “distressing” and that Illinois College “had work to do” when it came to a sense of belonging for all students on campus. Farley had campus staff remove all of the chalking because it violated the college’s policy of chalking, which is only supposed to be used to announce upcoming campus events. She said the removal “would best serve the campus community” and was not intended to “silence anyone’s voice.”
Farley followed it up with another email yesterday affirming “black lives matter” and “racial injustice has no place in [the Illinois College] community” in the vein of the college’s first president Edward Beecher, who was a well-known abolitionist. Farley said in yesterday’s email that she had received emails and had met with leaders of the Black Student Union as well as members of the community over the chalking incident. She said she also met with a new group, established in the last year who’s purpose is to combat systemic racism at the school called the Justice, Equity and Inclusion Team chaired by Valeria Cueto and Tim McGee. Farley urged the campus community again to offer “grace” and support and care to one another to navigate what she called “tumultuous times.”
The events happened on the heels of a campus-wide Unity March held in support of racial justice and Black lives on September 21st, in which approximately 1/3rd of the student body participated. WLDS News tried to obtain direct messages with students on campus as well as Dr. Farley on the tensions on campus, but no messages were returned.