Walks all chalked up

By Michael W. McVey

On your way to class you look down, and your eyes are bombarded with printed messages.

No, your textbook is not acting as an instrument to measure the speed of the perpetual whole gale near the Holmes Student Center. Neither is your copy of today’s Northern Star violently attempting to escape your iron grip in order to fly south. The messages you suddenly are noticing are printed in different colors of chalk on the campus sidewalks.

From the next church group meeting, to an upcoming Friday night concert, to critiques of the 1992 presidential candidates, to clashing views on abortion or hemp-smoking, you can read all about it long before you sit down to take notes on pre-Civil War America, or third-order differential equations.

The messages, in fact, are entirely legal, as long as they do not permanently deface property, according to the NIU Judicial Office.

Jim Harder, vice president of business and operations, said defacing of state property is a class four felony in Illinois.

NIU has not strictly enforced this law. In cases of spray painting, for example, the tendency has been to seek restitution rather than prosecute.

Harder also noted chalking of sidewalks is not considered an offense. He confirmed this with Norden Gilbert, NIU associate legal counsel, before contacting The Northern Star.

Carolyn Keeler, spokeswoman for university programing and activities, said yellow or while chalk is acceptable for messages on sidewalks, but student organizations taping posters to sidewalks would lose their privileges if caught.

This is prohibited because of the possibility of students tripping over the posters in wet weather.

According to Keeler, some organizations already have been warned this semester to remove such posters. Keeler said she agrees anything which would leave a permanent mark, such as crayon or spray paint, or which would jeopardize student safety, is not acceptable.

Before long, the inevitable snow cover will prevent any chalking of NIU sidewalks until well into the spring semester. Once that happens, student organization leaders and activists will revert to more traditional ways of making their point.