Chalk equals free speech. I get it.

Upon clarification of college policy, after a diligent fight by hundreds in the Facebook group "Coalition for Protection of First Amendment Rights of SUNY Geneseo Students," chalking returned to the sidewalks in full steam.

Of course it's great news that the college was swift and elegant in its reversal of the efforts to remove chalked messages, but is it really so great to swing to the other polarity? On Tuesday morning, after the so-called Chalk-a-Thon, the fully-chalked College Green area was left barely a square foot of pavement uncovered.

We all get the point: We have the right to free speech and we have the right to execute it through chalk. But are we really honoring that right by chalking every activist thought that comes to mind onto every block of sidewalk we can find? Don't get me wrong: I like the splash of color and, when they are inspiring or informative, I appreciate the messages.

Where I lose interest is when these paths become a sea of color, a barrage of messages like a series of late-night advertisements. Not only is it something of an annoyance, which would not merit an article, it also dulls the blade we call free speech. It's the difference between the favorable experience of eating one marshmallow as opposed to shoving a dozen in your mouth simultaneously.

I'm all for world peace, Tibetan freedom, an end to the war and even Humanities I and II. And I understand the urge to revel in our right to free speech. If this inundation of chalk is just a pressure release, I encourage everyone to blow steam until it's out of their system.

But when the party ends, I hope we can find a middle way (just like our Tibetan Buddhist friends would want) between the ironically similar and stifling effects of restricted free speech and rampant free speech. Let's keep the unicorn sketches in our notebooks. Let's keep random Beatles lyrics that you thought were written for Across the Universe on our iPods. Let's keep these trivialities from turning us off to the important ideas and attitudes expressed in thoughtful chalking.

Let's celebrate our right to free speech by executing it meaningfully. I suppose if I had a piece of chalk (and any more available sidewalk), I would say this: Keep it passionate, keep it poignant, keep it purposeful.

Dan Skahen is a junior communication major who vows he will crush your chalk if he catches you drawing something lame.

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