Chalk drama at UNH
Published: Friday, April 20, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
I often find it necessary on this campus to step back and engage in a form of self-criticism in order to keep myself intellectually honest. I realize that I am a conservative attending a state university in the northeast. Furthermore, I know that there are features of an American university campus which endlessly irritate me, but which would fail to faze the average college student. Finally, I think it is important to ensure that I am critiquing my adversaries on campus, rather than simply caricaturing them as is so often done to those on the right by those on the left.
Despite this, I am often faced with events on this campus which have a tendency to come off as a mocking misrepresentation when recounted in conversation or in print. Such is the case of the recent tiff between the UNH College Democrats and the Young Americans for Liberty.
To properly comprehend this story, I think a little background is needed. The UNH College Democrats is your typical political student organization. Weekly meeting attendance averages around two dozen and a core of about five members is responsible for administering the group. Their regular activities include tabling, volunteering on local and state campaigns, and facilitating small campus events.
The Young Americans for Liberty at UNH, YAL for short, began as an independent libertarian student group following Congressman Ron Paul’s initial run for the presidency in the 2008 Republican primaries. Later, the group became a recognized chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, a national student organization seeking to “recruit, train, educate, and mobilize students on the ideals of liberty and the Constitution.” UNH’s chapter was recently recognized as the strongest YAL organization in the northeast. The group’s activities include weekly discussions, the distribution of literature (mostly copies of the Constitution), and the facilitation of guest speakers. In March of 2011, the group hosted an event featuring Congressman Ron Paul which drew hundreds of attendees and widespread media attention.
And now for the story: two weeks ago, the UNH College Democrats decided to advertise their meetings via chalk in an effort to recruit new members. These chalk advertisements included relatively well-drawn Obama emblems above messages which read “Join College Democrats”, “@UNHDems,” and “#freedom.” One of YAL’s leaders—who found the association of the Obama presidency with the concept of freedom amusing—took a picture of one of these advertisements and posted it on Facebook with the caption, “lol UNH College Dems #freedomfail.”
Later that day—in a totally unrelated incident carried out by individuals acting independently of YAL—these chalk advertisements were “defaced.” By “defaced,” I mean that phrases like “war,” “I love war,” and “I love the NDAA” (the National Defense Authorization Act, a law that allows for the indefinite detention of citizens on the grounds of suspected terrorist activity) were drawn alongside the chalk advertisements left by the College Democrats.
I am told that upon seeing this, at least one of the group’s officers was “very upset,” “on the verge of tears,” and naturally looking for someone to blame. When the YAL leader’s earlier Facebook post was brought to this officer’s attention, said officer jumped to the conclusion that YAL had institutionally and systematically “defaced” all of the College Democrats’ chalk advertisements. In view of this, one has to conclude that it might be wise for the College Democrats to reflect upon their sense of self-importance. After all, it takes audacity to conclude that YAL has nothing better to do than to vandalize one’s chalk drawings.
Since concluding this faux investigation and identifying a scapegoat, it is rumored, and by rumored I mean well known, that the College Democrats have brought this fabricated story to the Administration’s attention. Additionally, I have heard that the group intends to submit a bias incident report on the matter. While I have never been a great fan of “bias”—or any other speech code for that matter—I have always been under the impression that “bias” refers exclusively to “hate speech” committed on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In light of recent developments, it seems as though the term has now been expanded to include any speech that liberals become indignant about.
Oh well, College Democrats will be College Democrats. The only thing that bothers me about all this is the hypocrisy. In late October of 2010, in the days preceding the November election, I called the UNH Police and had the College Democrats removed from SERC B for soliciting without a permit. This activity, which the College Democrats were partaking in as a group, was in clear violation of university policy. The Department of Housings policy on solicitation clearly states that, “door-to-door solicitation is strictly prohibited. Commercial activity, solicitation or advertising is not permitted in or around University housing unless prior approval by the University Police Department has been obtained.”