SGA meeting discussed the political chalkings around campus


Photo by Maggie Bychurch

A three-hour-long meeting was held tonight by the Student Government Association regarding the political chalkings that were drawn Sunday afternoon on Nicholls campus. 

The chalking was done in both the quad and outside the student union by an organization known as the College Republicans at Nicholls State University. 

SGA President Ethan Naquin said that while SGA does support all opinions, they do not support this organization’s actions. 

“While we support student rights, we must also be mindful of the guidelines and policies set by administration,” Naquin said. 

In the meeting, Naquin stated that the organization was not permitted to chalk on the sidewalks of campus. All organizations that wish to do so are to fill out forms with the Campus Reservations Office, which the College Republicans did not do.

“As an organization representing the student body, we have your back. And this is why we are here today. We want to hear from you and what you want to see moving forward,” Naquin said. 

Naquin said that in the meeting all voices would be heard and any student who wished to speak was given the opportunity. 

University President Jay Clune then spoke briefly on the issue saying that while students do have a right to freedom of speech, there are laws and regulations per Louisiana state government that states that political signs cannot be placed on public property thus breaking campus policy. 

Clune was clear that every student is free to speak his or her mind, but they must also follow university regulations and state law. 

“As a public university, we protect free speech in accordance with our policy. We only regulate that speech when it’s harassing or creates a hostile workplace or educational environment,”Clune said. 

Regardless of different opinions, Clune promised to protect all students in their right to free speech as they stood to voice their views and feelings.

The College Republicans at Nicholls State University had a plethora of issues in doing this event as stated below:

One, the College Republicans at Nicholls State University is not an official Nicholls organization. Michele Caruso, associate vice president and dean of students for student affairs stated this in the meeting that the Office of Student Affairs has no record of this organization.

Two, the organization in question did not fill out the correct paperwork to do the chalking. As per the Campus Reservation guidelines, any organization that wishes to chalk on sidewalks, hold fundraisers or host any type of event must fill out a request form with Campus Reservations.

Three, as stated before, it is illegal per state law that anyone who wishes to promote political topics is not allowed to do so on public property. 

Four, the students involved did not adhere to social distancing guidelines and were not wearing masks as mandated by Nicholls administration.

In an email sent out by Jerad David on behalf of Clune, links are provided to both the University’s regulations and also the state law prohibiting this political advertisement. 

As the meeting progressed, all students were encouraged to participate in an open forum discussion to voice their opinions and concerns to SGA, administration and fellow students. Approximately 40 students stood up to ask questions and voice their concerns to those in attendance. 

Many students said that they believe Nicholls should be a place of neutrality. It should be a safe place for students to come and earn their degree and not be concerned with politics. Those who spoke out all had different opinions, but many respected each other and their differences. 

Most students who had spoken all voiced a common concern: Will there be any type of reparations to those involved with the chalking event and those in the organization? What is the Nicholls administration doing to prevent this from happening again?

Not all members of the organization were present at the SGA meeting, but towards the end, two members stood up to apologize for the organization’s actions. One of these members was the Vice President of the organization, Cooper Moore. 

Moore stated that he wanted to wait until the end of the meeting to speak, which did cause some controversy in the crowd. Nonetheless, as Moore began to explain his stance on the issue, students thanked him for coming to the meeting and respected what he had to say.

Moore said that he was unaware of the event as it was organized by the chairman of the organization, Markaylen Wiltz. Regardless, Moore apologized on behalf of the group. Moore said that if he would have known about the event, he would have tried to prevent it from ever happening. 

Moore said that he is willing to accept any punishment the university decides to give them. Moore said that he does not expect forgiveness from all nor does he think they deserve forgiveness. 

Clune spoke on behalf of the administration to address the concerns students had. As to why the administration did not stop the organization from chalking on campus property, Clune said that no administration was on campus because it was Sunday. The administration had only found out about the incident through social media the same way many students did. 

As for punishment, Clune said that he and the administration will be discussing the correct course of action to take regarding those involved in the chalking event. He stated that while he cannot punish the message, he can punish the chalking, and it will be handling the issue in the coming days. 

“Let me tell you what we can do,” Clune said. “We do have a policy on chalking on our campus. We can regulate when someone chalks on our campus, sticks a sign in the ground on our campus, posts anything on a bulletin board on our campus. What we can’t do is we can’t regulate that same message if it’s handed out in a brochure, if it’s communicated verbally on a street corner. We can regulate the time and place in which that message can be disseminated.”

Regarding the post on the College Republican’s Facebook page with images of the students chalking, it has been taken down after Moore and others in the organization requested it to be deleted. Nicholls administration could not force them to take the post down because they are not an official Nicholls organization.