Victoria Tillinghast | News Editor
Most students present at the Nov. 16 protest heard of the event via Yik Yak or through a friend, gathering their cardboard signs to take to Kaufman Mall for what was promised to be a peaceful protest. Kayla MacPherson, the organizer of the protest and freshman at ODU, sat on the concrete railing surrounding the Webb center which was now covered in chalk messages. MacPherson herself writing, ‘Pedophilia is not a sexuality’ on a fluorescent pink piece of poster paper.
The controversy surrounding Dr. Allyn Walker had been occupying the minds of the ODU faculty, students, and staff since the news first started to gain national attention four days ago. The day at ODU started with a fresh coat of paint on the PRIDE Rock.
“GET ALLYN WALKER OFF CAMPUS,” was scrawled on one side.
“GET LOST PEDO,” written on the jagged edges of another.
“MAPS BELONG IN JAIL,” was added for safe measure.
Along with some other expletives.
Across the campus, a young man in a poncho began writing on the front of the Webb Center “FIRE ALLYN WALKER” in chalk. By noon, an ODU employee had power washed the chalk away and the PRIDE Rock had a fresh coat of paint on it for the second time in the last 24 hours. Students at the protest, which occurred later at 4:30 p.m. saw both of these actions as a means of inhibiting their views.
“They may wash away our chalk, they may paint over the rock, but they can’t silence our voices,” MacPherson said into the microphone to the tightly packed crowd. She and her friend, Hayley Walters, started their day in the office of the president, getting permission to publicly voice their opinion on the Walker controversy and invite others to join.
“A lot of students have been sharing their thoughts on these issues,” Walters said of the experience, “It seemed at first that they were trying to silence the students.” She continues referencing ODU’s actions that morning.
Walters and MacPherson were told that the chalk writing would be washed away by midnight. They urged the crowd to be peaceful, to avoid profanity. No doxxing was allowed.
“ODU is a community,” MacPherson continued, “We have children here. Whether it be roaming the school with their parents as alumni or in the daycare, or over here playing in the chalk—pedophilia is not welcomed. And neither is the idea of MAPs. There is no such thing as a minor-attracted person.”
The crowd released a rallied cry of agreement as those with signs hoisted them in the air above their heads. As the crowd began to march on campus, fluorescent and cardboard signs rose higher than their voices.
The protest disbanded around 5:00 p.m. without issue. An email from President Brian Hemphill hit the inbox of faculty, students, and staff at 5:59 p.m.
“Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff: These last few days have been a challenging time for our campus and our community. As many of you are aware, our University has been at the center of much controversy surrounding a faculty member’s description of research concerning pedophilia, a subject that is not only sensitive, but is also personally traumatic for many.”
“Raise your hand if you’ve been hit on by an adult as a minor,” MacPherson asked the crowd, participants glanced around to realize they were not alone in holding their hand in the air. “Keep your hand raised if it made you uncomfortable.”
“In recent days, as I have been engaging with our students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters, and community members, I have been struck by how many people have personally endured the tragedy of child sexual abuse in some way. For them, especially, this is a challenging time, triggering terrible memories and causing fresh pain,” Hemphill’s email continued.
“Raise your hand if you have a younger sibling,” MacPherson asked of the crowd, “Raise your hand if someone you’re close to has a younger sibling.”
“Many individuals have shared with me the view that the phrase “minor-attracted people” is inappropriate and should not be utilized as a euphemism for behavior that is illegal, morally unacceptable, and profoundly damaging. It is important to call pedophilia what it is. As a father, I am troubled by this narrative and its potential consequences for my children and that of future generations,” Hemphill wrote.
“And now, why don’t we put our hands up if we’re uncomfortable with the idea of a pedophile on campus,” MacPherson prompted.
“Ideally, we would be able to debate even the most challenging issues without disruption of threats of violence, but that is not the world we live in today. Our campus has recently become the target of threats and other unacceptable disruption,” the email read.
“Pedos Gotta Go!” They cried as the crowd marched. A man on 43rd St. with his car window rolled down held up traffic to shout in approval.
“As the President of Old Dominion University, my foremost responsibility is for the safety of everyone associated with the campus. For this reason, Dr. Allyn Walker has been placed on administrative leave.” Hemphill’s statement read, “Additional actions have been taken to enhance the safety and security, and I encourage everyone to look out for each other and report anything of concern immediately.”
“Protect our kids,” the crowd chanted. The man on 43rd street was inaudible through his jeers, a face contorted in rage as he shouted across the street at the passing protest to be received with sounds of encouragement.
“Research into sensitive topics and the expression of new or controversial views lie at the heart of academic research. Old Dominion University remains committed to providing an environment in which our faculty can and will engage in rigorous research.” Hemphill’s article insisted, “At the same time, this freedom carries with it the obligation to speak and write with care and precision, particularly on a subject that has caused pain in so many lives. I am confident that our Monarch family will rise to the occasion in our continuing campus dialogue, and I am equally confident that we share a common starting point for the discussion: rejection of any form of sexual abuse of children.”
“If you or someone you love is a victim of child sex abuse or even sex abuse as an adult, do not be afraid to speak out,” MacPherson encouraged the crowd, “There are people who care about you and want to help you get help.”