To close the “Say What: Examining Freedom of Speech at App State” series, the Student Government Association hosted “Paint Your Peace” in partnership with Jonathon Hyde, dean of students. The event was an opportunity for students to visually voice their thoughts in the free expression tunnels. Ignoring the ice and snow that hit campus, students came down to the tunnels, dropped their book bags and painted with SGA representatives.
“I know there was a lot of profanity and some racist symbols on these walls, so I think it’s nice to spread love and positivity,” Hala Rodgerson, freshman environmental science major, said, as she painted the words “love your mother” onto the wall. “I just hope it stays positive.”
A “Positivity Paint Night” was held in response to racist graffiti of a Nazi flag on Sept. 30. This time, students painted on the blank walls to spread positivity from the start. Student body president DeJon Milbourne said “Paint Your Peace” also stood as a connection between SGA and students, offering students their voice, and SGA’s trust to hear them out.
Milbourne, a junior triple major in finance and banking, risk management and accounting, said SGA wanted to partner with the series to help educate students on what they receive many complaints about: freedom of speech and hate speech. Milbourne said most times, students with these complaints are referred to Hyde, who also serves as one of two responsibility officers for App State, so they saw this as a perfect opportunity to work together and to work with students.
Joe Wilkes, senior marketing major and chief of staff for Milbourne, said the series stands out amongst normal talks and sessions because it allows the students to actively engage in speaking up. Wilkes said SGA has and will continue to support this for all students.
“Being in student government, what that means is not only representing the voices of individuals that might have a concern or a problem, but also representing the voices of the people that agree,” Wilkes said. “(It’s) making sure freedom of speech is protected for all of our students here, not just the ones with the loudest voices.”
Story by Emily Broyles
Photo by Paola Bula
Featured photo caption: Students spray paint positive messages and symbols in the free expression tunnels.