The “Express Yo Self” corridor in the library, next to the first floor elevators in Goldfarb, is on hold until further notice, pending a discussion between the library and the provost’s office. Until then, the walls have all been painted white and the markers have been removed.
The wall was painted over due to staff complaints of explicit sexual drawings that objectified women and hate language. The library is now discussing the situation with the provost’s office and is open to input from students about what to do with the space.
We condemn the hate speech that was written on the wall. The Express Yo Self corridor is a space for spontaneous creative expression, offering students a break from studying and the chance to leave their creative mark in the library. There is a lot of freedom in what goes on the wall, and many students write inspirational quotes in addition to drawing. But with this free reign of creative expression, students should be respectful and mindful of what they draw. It crosses a line to write hateful language or draw offensive images, as we should have the rest of our Brandeis community in mind. Although expletives and profanity have caused no problems on the wall in the past and can often be seen as an extension of one’s creativity, we must remember that there are limits to creative expression.
This incident should not be a reason to get rid of the space. We hope that the Express Yo Self corridor returns soon, even if this means some modifications be made. It would be a good idea to establish community guidelines for the space and post this signage outside the corridor. Hopefully this would remind students of the expectations of respect and decency.
There is a risk that guidelines or more monitoring of the space would restrict students’ creative expression, which is what Express Yo Self is intended for. The fine line must be established between what is deemed respectful and what crosses boundary lines. We do not think that expletives and profanity should be banned from the wall completely, but images that are objectifying or violent can be directly threatening to the community and have no place in the space.
There is no need to squander students’ creativity or restrict positive messages; what is necessary is a baseline of respect and decency for what goes on the wall of our university library.