Chalk messages cover Speaker Circle in support of Concerned Student 1950

Spending just $8 and a few hours of their time, students make their mark.
Students write "#ConcernedStudent1950" in chalk in Speakers Circle Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015.

Prior to the announcement of University System President System Tim Wolfe’s resignation, students withstood temperatures bordering on 40 degrees Sunday night as they scrawled quotes and statements on the steps and sidewalk surrounding Speakers Circle in support of Concerned Student 1950.

Quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. such as “Darkness doesn’t drive out darkness; only light can do that” and “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” were written alongside quotes from Rosa Parks, and the hashtag #ConcernedStudent1950 was written in the center of Speakers Circle in black.

Freshman Zach Kilgas and sophomore Greer Wetherington started writing quotes in chalk Sunday night at around 9 p.m. and were joined by other students throughout the evening.

“I think that Speakers Circle should be a place where we use it for positive speech, not to condemn anyone like some of the preachers that have come by or just to advertise for events,” Kilgas said. “I think it should be a place where we can stand up for each other.”

Kilgas said he had the idea to fill Speakers Circle with quotes from historic civil rights activists after speaking with friends who were shocked and unaware of the recent events on campus, such as graduate student Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike who was on a hunger strike for eight days, as well as a multitude of events throughout the semester that can be viewed on The Maneater’s interactive timeline.

Wetherington said she hopes that students will see freedom of speech being used in a powerful way through the statements made in chalk, and that they will be influenced by the words of empowerment and encouragement on their way to their classes and in other endeavors.

“I believe that this movement has inspired many other people to get involved, and hopefully that momentum will keep going after this movement has passed and continue with other movements and other activities that students find important,” Wetherington said.

Junior Megan McBride, who was on her way to the campsite on Carnahan Quad where Concerned Student 1950 supporters are camping out in support of the hunger strike, joined Kilgas and Wetherington when she saw their efforts.

McBride said she thinks everyone should help in some way if they can.

“There are a lot of ways to help in this movement that you might not necessarily think of, and everyone has their own talents, and so hone in on that and use what you can to help people,” McBride said.

Kilgas said they had about 110 pieces of chalk in total, and he only spent about $8 buying a bin of 58 pieces of chalk from Walmart to add to the ones they already had. Kilgas said he encourages others to simply do little acts in order to make a difference, even if it’s just spending $8 and taking two hours to do something.

Kilgas stressed he feels something needs to be done and described the campus climate and recent events as “tense,” “terrifying” and “scary.”

“With change comes sacrifice, and right now a lot of things are changing, and I think we’re seeing a lot of negativity, but I think that just in the coming months ... we’ll start seeing more unity because this is terrible,” Kilgas said.

In the past, Kilgas said he and his best friend would write messages in chalk around their town. What started out as light-hearted jokes and pictures to make people laugh, such as “2227: Oprah Winfrey declared immortal human being,” has now become a way for him to leave “little stories for everyone,” per his best friend’s encouragement.

Kilgas said he wants progress to be made in order to mend damages caused by recent events and move forward through learning and educating.

Similar acts have already started to take place at other college campuses. Students at the University of Kansas have also begun to show support for Butler and Concerned Student 1950, writing hashtags and a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. on a sidewalk on their campus.

Butler’s hunger strike has gained national coverage, sparked by the football team’s announcement that they planned to boycott football activities until UM System President Tim Wolfe resigns.

During the emergency UM System Board of Curators on Nov. 9 at 10 a.m. Wolfe announced his resignation. Wolfe’s resignation is currenly the only one of the demands put forward by Concerned Student 1950 that has been met.

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