Students "proudly" stand behind their sidewalk chalk messages - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Students "proudly" stand behind their sidewalk chalk messages

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -- Members of UNI Proud wanted to inform students about upcoming Pride Week events the same way many other groups on campus do: by writing messages on the sidewalk in chalk.

They were shocked when they stepped on the University of Northern Iowa campus Monday morning, and saw their informational, and colorful, notes had been erased. So they replaced them with a new message.

"It says, 'You can erase this message, but you can't erase us. It's gay pride week on campus.' And so, we're laying there - we're not erase-able," explained UNI Proud member Shelby Long.

UNI Proud expected to make an impression on students during Pride Week. But they were planning to do it with chalk, not with a silent protest.

"Every single student organization does it. You can see it right now, and it hasn't been a problem for any other organization," Long said about the chalk advertisements.

Technically, the UNI Student Handbook requires a written request for groups to advertise anywhere other than an "open bulletin board". But KWWL found messages about a free tax service, and an upcoming comedy show, right next to the one someone erased about a Pride Week event.

"I was really mad! You could still see the water marks where someone had taken a bottle of water and dumped it on where we had chalked. You could still see where they had smudged it," recalled Long.

UNI Proud expected to deal with some backlash from students, but the group did not think they'd see a campus employee wiping out their announcements.

"We just know he was in a university vehicle, and when they approached him he said it was vandalism," Long said.

The university is investigating, and spokesperson Stacey Christensen said they strongly support diversity of all kinds on campus.

Meanwhile, UNI Proud is re-chalking their announcements, and refusing to celebrate quietly.

"It adds a little fuel to the fire. We're still here, we're still proud, it's still gay pride week, and we're going to make sure everyone knows it. Not much has changed, we just have to push a little harder," noted Long.

Long claimed every message was informative -- times, dates, places, just like the other announcements KWWL saw on campus sidewalks. But one student pointed out, there were some notes that held messages like "gay is good". That student felt these kinds of statements could be construed as offensive, although she felt UNI Proud had a right to have their message heard.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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