On Aug. 1 2023, a campus-wide email was sent out by the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) outlining updates completed on Meredith Campus over the summer, including the removal of the free expression boards.
In an Aug. 28 email, Dean of Students Ann Gleason stated that, although titled as “free expression” boards, “[they] had almost exclusively been used over the last decade to promote student events sponsored by active student organizations. In places of these boards, numerous other, more accessible methods are available for the student community to share event information.” Some suggestions made by Dean Gleason include MC Connect, The Meredith Herald, and Halo Happenings, the weekly newsletter published by the Student Government Association (SGA). Dean Gleason’s statement was given when Meredith College Student News (MCSN) and The Herald reached out for comment.
Students had different reactions to the news of the board removal. Bri Long, ’25, stated that she was not surprised by the news, considering “everything [that] happened this past spring semester.” Others were upset by the news, including Shakira Bullock, ’26, who stated that she “was very appalled, and honestly very sad.”
Madison Cidor, ’25, was on campus when the boards were removed. At the time when the boards were taken down, she “assumed it was because of landscaping and they wanted to mow under and around the boards” but then later heard that they would be permanently removed. She added that she believes that the problem with the boards arose due the concerns of the messages “being seen by tour groups or posted on social media with Meredith tagged” and mentioned that the board removal has taken away “one of the ways for students to learn about clubs and events on campus.”
During spring of 2023, the free expression boards had become synonymous with their anonymous messages. The posting of anonymous messages began on Feb. 6, 2023, after an anonymous person spray-painted “Meredith Is Dying” on one board, with the other stating, “Listen To Your Students.” These messages sparked campus-wide conversations, before being painted over on Feb. 10, 2023. The next message appeared Apr. 12, with the boards reading “Autism is Not a Disease” and “ABA is Torture.” Within a day, the boards read “Sisterhood, Not Censorhood” and “Students Know The Truth.” For the final message on Apr. 13, chalk writings were found on the sidewalk by the boards. The writings were mainly focused on Meredith’s Autism Program (MAP), and about autism acceptance on campus. Each of these messages on the boards were written in all-capitalized lettering.
In replacement of the boards, Meredith College’s ELT offered varying formats for student freedom of expression, including MC Connect and Halo Happenings. Both of these options focus on club meetings and events on Meredith’s main campus.
Even with the other forms of communication, many do not think this effort is enough to replace the free expression boards, one of these students being Cidor, who does not believe these options will suffice. Long also added that, it’s more challenging for students to “express how they feel about certain topics without the possibility of them putting a target on themselves.” In the same line of thought, Bullock brought up the noticeability of the boards, clarifying that they garnered attention and were easily accessible in comparison to emails. Long also made note that an amenable compromise should be reached, but “just [does not] know what it is.”
While some students were not surprised by the removal of the free expression boards due to past messages displayed, it brings up the question of how Meredith students will now express their first amendment on campus. While there are places organizations can promote events, is there still a place for students to express their views?
By Riley Heeb, Opinion Editor, and Kat Whetstone, Contributing Writer