National LGBTQ event born at Drew attracts attention in the wake of a student’s suicide at Rutgers.

On their way to class today, students are being greeted with messages of love on the pathways crisscrossing campus. Written in chalk, the messages—”You are loved” and “You are beautiful”—are part of a grassroots effort started at Drew that’s grown into a national event.

The brainchild of Jen Dugan C’08, the You-Are-Loved Chalk Message project works to heighten awareness of suicide in the LGBTQ community by combating words of hate with messages of love.

An activist as a student at Drew, Dugan had the idea for the project in 2005 while trying to make sense of a personal tragedy. The annual event has taken root on college campuses across the United States, as well as with suicide prevention organizations. Dugan says that some universities go beyond the chalk messages and hold tolerance workshops as well as suicide awareness and prevention programs.

The increased scale of the project—its Facebook page has more than 5,000 fans—has much to do with Dugan’s hard work. “It’s a long and time-consuming process, but the response our campaign gets is overwhelmingly positive,” says Dugan. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the NOH8 campaign and, as well as other major gay and lesbian news outlets, are helping to promote it.

The project happens just 12 days after Rutgers first-year student Tyler Clementi committed suicide allegedly as a result of homophobic bullying. At Drew, the Chalk Message project, run by the Alliance, an organization devoted to LGBTQ awareness, is geared toward LGBTQ students, but the messages of love and kindness are for everyone to absorb. Says Alliance member Kestin Gussoff C’11, “It is nice to see the chalk, to get feelings of love into the world. I think it is a wonderful thing to have on our campus.”—Cara Swan C’11