Posted May 25, 2016 by Cooper Point Journal in Campus Life

‘FUCK TERF!’ Chalk On Campus Garners Backlash

By Nix Chace

On May 2, Evergreen’s upper campus was covered in chalk. The phrases “Fuck TERFs!” and “Trans lives matter!” were written on the ground and walls around Red Square. TERF stands for ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’—usually meaning cis-woman who identify as feminists but misgender, exclude, and deny the womanhood of trans-women. These phrases came in the light of a larger discussion about discrimination and violence against trans students at Evergreen. Some students had been writing similar slogans around campus previously without much controversy, but the amount of chalk and prominent location brough particular attention to this incident.

Shortly after the chalk was written, it was erased by Residential and Dining (RAD) Services. A couple days after the incident, the Geoduck Student Union (GSU) held a meeting to discuss “the recent graffiti” on campus. A couple weeks ago I sat down with the transgender students behind the chalk, who wished to remain anonymous, to talk about their intentions behind the action, their decision of being present for the GSU meeting, and why the chalk matters.

The students who wrote the phrases in chalk, as well as other transgendered community members attended the meeting to express their frustration. One of the students behind the chalk said this changed the tone of the meeting, “It was mostly trans people, [and] the meeting ended up being more of a like ‘tell us things about why this might be happening’ sort of thing. Which is a lot different than what we thought it was going to be.” These students were not invited to the meeting, but chose to attend with a purpose.

“It was advertised like ‘having concerns about the recent graffiti?! Come to the GSU!’ and we were like, there’s gonna be so many TERFs. So if we don’t go then it’s just going to be a bunch of TERFs talking and then it’ll be a real bias incident,” another anonymous student explained about their intent in attending and speaking at the GSU meeting.

Based on their experience at the meeting, these students felt that the GSU did not have a clear intention on what they wanted to get out of the discussing the incident. They also felt the GSU did not really address the issues being raised, “Most of the stuff just came down to the GSU doesn’t actually seem to have a lot of power at all?” one student remarked. The GSU did not respond to the Cooper Point Journal’s request for comment.

The chalk has sparked a harsh backlash from the administration that other incidents of students writing in chalk on campus have not. Since the chalk occurred, these three students have faced a meeting with RAD services, a conduct meeting with the school’s administration, and a meeting with George Bridges. Never before has there been this much controversy in reaction to chalk on campus. However, since some students have felt that the chalk was harsh and hostile, the administration felt they needed to take action and the students behind the chalk are being  accused of vandalism, harassment, and harm.

These students defend themselves saying the chalk is addressing important issues, they wanted “students to look up what a TERF is, or just be more aware. Like, why do people care so much about TERF’s? And just talk to people about it.” After expressing similar sentiments in chalk occasionally around campus, they chose to write more and move to where it would be seen so they could spur a larger discussion.

One of these students said, “When we were doing it on lower campus, that’s when there was not as much of a purpose in doing this because no one really cares? So when we moved to upper campus, it was like let’s get even more people to see this, other than just RAD services, who has to scrub it away. And the first time we had it on Red Square, we wrote ‘Do you care, George?’ and he had no idea that this chalking even existed!”

Another one of the students added more about the decision to make this more concerted action,  “It was also never our intention to burden all the students in RAD services who had to clean that off lower campus, because a lot of them are queer and trans. We didn’t realize it would get power-washed at first, or that they were required to chase after it. Which is also why we moved to upper campus so it wouldn’t get erased, and other people have chalked political things and non-political things and those haven’t had issues necessarily.”

Expressing frustration at the large administration reaction they added, “No one seems to be answering for the TRUMP 2016 chalk that happened earlier this quarter? Why was that left up for a week like nobody said anything at all.” This refers to a large pro-trump chalk display on Red Square during the early weeks of spring quarter, which was not washed away and received little to no attention from students and administration alike.

This makes the fact that these students are being punished for chalk meant to empower trans students all the more upsetting, especially in the wake of criticism that the administration does not adequately support and protect trans students.

The students behind this chalk action expressed demands and critiques similar to what many other trans students and student groups have already been telling Evergreen administration.

In order for many trans students to feel safer on this campus they want a dedicated queer resource center on campus and more effort from the administration in prioritizing trans-related issues. Trans students feeling a need to take these issues into their own hands, as the administration will not address them, lead these student to take this action.