BART investigating chalk incident

Students for Life’s handwritten “Messages of Love” were scrubbed off or partially erased in what has since been classified as a campus bias incident

Photos courtesy of Twitter | Chalk messages written by Students for Life were scrubbed off on Oct. 17. Xavier’s Bias Advisory & Reponse Team is investigating the incident.

On Oct. 17, Xavier Students for Life (S4L), a pro-life club on campus, chalked messages that they say intended to show love and support and included contact information of resources for students who were experiencing pregnancy or who were parents. The messages were written on the sidewalks around Kuhlman Hall and Herald Avenue.

Around 11:15 p.m., three students were spotted outside the Mail Center erasing the messages around Herald Avenue with boiling water. The messages next to Kuhlman were partially erased by eight students around 12:05 a.m. The incident was referred to the Bias Advisory and Response Team (BART).

“BART is hoping to gather more details from (Xavier Police) and the Dean of Students regarding their ongoing investigation and how we should move forward,” BART member Dr. Taj Smith said. He added that the BART team met on Tuesday to discuss the incident.

First-year finance major and club member Carson Rayhill said that the goal of the chalking was to “inspire a respect for life and all types of people with loving and encouraging messages.”

S4L members said that they can refer students to resources if they are experiencing pregnancy or are parenting and that they hope to provide a community of support and inclusion for those who may have these experiences.

“Our club is meant to be a resource for students who might face these experiences, but wiping away our messages inhibits that goal,” junior club treasurer Lily Hutkowski said.

Sophomore business management major Caroline Murphy added that the vandalism went against not only the club’s goals but also those of Xavier as a whole.

“These actions diminish the values of inclusion that our university wants to uphold,” Murphy said.

Rayhill also expressed concern that other students, especially first-years, may be afraid to offer their opinions and viewpoints on these types of issues as a result of the vandalism. S4L President Anna Gayford added that club members want the opposite: more engagement with these issues on both sides of the aisle.

“We would like to have open discussions and dialogue with those who disagree with us on this issue,” Gayford said.

Despite the debate about the issue itself, both pro-life and pro-choice proponents expressed support for the club.

“I think that regardless of the messaging, the incident should be considered vandalism, and I hope that if I had done something similar with a club that I was involved in, our opinions and beliefs would be respected,” junior Sam Peters, who is a pro-choice supporter, said.

Gayford said the club hopes to have more displays and plans to continue to talk about support solutions for students who are pregnant or parenting. Students for Life of America will be publishing a press release on the issue later this week.

Beyond Xavier, other schools across the country have reported acts of vandalism toward Students for Life groups. In September, Students for Life at the University of Nebraska-Omaha reported theft of and damage to a weeklong pro-life display. Signs were stolen or thrown in the trash, and pro-choice messages were written on them. A video later surfaced showing an individual who placed signs in front of the group’s display.

At Kutztown University, located in Pennsylvania, pro-life posters were torn down, according to an Oct. 3 Facebook post from the group.

Closer to home, a student at the Miami University-Hamilton campus destroyed parts of the Cemetery of Innocents display in April. The incident came shortly after the university’s Students for Life group settled a lawsuit with Miami University of Ohio concerning free speech after being required to put trigger warnings around the display in 2017.

Back on campus, S4L has continued to cooperate with BART, as well as the Dean of Students and the police department, in the ongoing investigation.

By: Michael Rauber | Staff Writer