Election Causes Campus Tension, Prompts #doesfrostburgcare
Tensions have been high on Frostburg State University’s campus, much like many other places, as a result of the 2016 presidential election. On Wednesday, Nov. 9, sidewalk chalk vandalism became prominent with “TRUMP” and “#MAGA” [Make America Great Again] support covering campus sidewalks and buildings. This outpouring of Donald Trump support quickly frustrated many students and prompted the hashtag on Twitter “#doesfrostburgcare.”
Students were encouraged by each other to use the hashtag #doesfrostburgcare to highlight any feelings of discomfort or displeasure with the University’s handling of the campus vandalism. After Black Lives Matter support was displayed through vandalism earlier in the year, it was washed away quickly by University personnel. Students were curious as to why the same was not being done to remove the Trump support.
One student explained it as, “#doesfrostburgcare students are upset with Trump signage and no response is given why it’s justified but #blm wasn’t allowed.” Many other students voiced their displeasure with racial discrimination and other minority issues.
Upset students united by washing away the vandalism with water bottles and writing messages of positivity and love. Videos of those removing the vandalism were also shared on social media with the hashtag.
By approximately 3 p.m., University Facilities staff were power-washing all vandalism on campus, including the messages of positivity.
The obvious frustration amongst students was addressed through an e-mail from President Ronald Nowaczyk later that afternoon where he stated, “In response to the election results, graffiti has started showing up on campus. This graffiti is creating anger and feelings of intimidation, regardless of whether that was its intent.”
He added, “We appreciate the efforts that many of our students have made to remove the graffiti, and we recognize efforts to replace them with more positive messages. However, we will continue to remove all graffiti so that we are not placed in the position of judging the content of any of these messages. We respect everyone’s right to free speech, but please do not let our beautiful campus become that canvas.”
Nowaczyk mentioned the current emotional state of the United States and said, “The diverse community that we have created here will continue. People will always disagree with one another, and we will disagree over important, crucial, life-changing things. We must not let our disagreements feed anger and fear, nor should we tolerate those who would stoke division rather than seek understanding. We are all committed to making certain that everyone on our campus, regardless of their race, religion, class, sexual orientation, or political beliefs feels both welcome and safe. None of us should view any member of this community as ‘the other.’”
He also offered information regarding a Unity and Peace Prayer Vigil that took place at Frostburg United Methodist Church that evening. A follow-up e-mail hours later included information about “Listening Tables” in Lane Center the next day.
On Friday, Nov. 11, Nowaczyk contacted the entire student e-mail list again expressing sympathy and understanding. He began the e-mail by saying, “The past few days have been emotional for almost all Americans with feelings ranging from joy to upset and fear. We see these emotions being displayed across the country and I have heard and felt them from students, staff, and faculty on campus.”
He invited anyone in the campus community, especially students, to meet with him in the Atkinson Room of Lane Center on Sunday, Nov. 13 to share ideas and to help him create “avenues for healthy and productive discussion.”
Use of the hashtag “#doesfrostburgcare” had since continued but lessened at press time.