Earlier this month, Western Carolina University experience an overnight influx of chalk writing on campus that seemed to spawn from controversy over a police brutality poster displayed in front of Intercultural Affairs (ICA) located in the University Center. Many students lashed out on social media saying that the poster was inaccurate and disgraceful. This controversy quickly skyrocketed and ended up creating an entire "Black Lives Matter" movement on campus.
Written in bold letters in the center of campus near the Catafount water fountain, across the University clock tower and even along the path of the sidewalk leading into University Center was “Black Lives Matter.” Additionally, opposing students were seen writing “White Lives Matter" in chalk and other contentions on Facebook and YikTak, an app known for publically allowing college students to anonymously voice their opinion.
LeAnn Cain, a junior at Western Carolina, stated, “No, I haven’t actually seen any of the black lives matter writings over campus. I have seen pictures people have posted on the social media, Snapchat. I didn’t really think much of it, honestly. I haven’t thought about how this movement is more than just on a national level that we’ve seen all over the news but it’s local. I wouldn’t have thought that people at WCU would be spray painting it all over campus so it has really put this movement into perspective. You know, some things need to change everywhere, even in Western Carolina.”
Students across campus have shown their concerns and it became obvious that our campus needed a resource for students to discuss this sensitive and cultural material. As a result, a new organization called the "Social Justice Warriors of Western Carolina University" emerged on Facebook and began recruiting members. This group posted on the residential living Facebook pages and received comments such as "This is necessary" from students. The group's first meeting was March 14 in ICA's office. This meeting was an initial interest meeting entitled "Call to Action: A Meeting to Discuss recent campus controversy and courses of Action." This organization will be an ongoing one and upcoming meetings will be posted on their Facebook page.
Chancellor David Belcher, Ph.D. also sent a campus-wide e-mail about campus discourse and civility in response to the controversy. He mentioned the messages that have been spreading across campus and social media and had something to say about it.
“Let me be absolutely clear: Western Carolina University takes seriously allegations of unlawful harassment based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, gender identity or expression, genetic information, sexual orientation, military veteran status, disability, or political affiliation. WCU will investigate any allegations of unlawful harassment,” Belcher stated in the e-mail.
He also added, “I have heard your concerns and have talked with my leadership team about strategies for moving forward. Over the coming weeks, there will be opportunities to continue these conversations in classes, in our organizations, and, yes, online in social media.”
A theme to consider throughout a time of change and an upcoming election is “How should I react?” or “Should I react?” Many times, occasions like the chalk markings that Western Carolina is experiencing occurs during times of high stress, especially during election time periods.
If you’re having trouble dealing with the current social milieu, you can visit Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which offers free services for students. CAPS is located in room 225 of the Bird Building. For more information about CAPS, you can call 828-227-7469.
For more information about the Social Justice Warriors, you can visit them on Facebook under “Social Justice Warriors of Western Carolina University.”
If you would like to file a complaint about unlawful harassment on campus, you can contact Kevin Koett, Ed.D., Dean of Students or the Department of Student Community Ethics. Koett can be reached at email@example.com. The Department of Student Community Ethics can be reached at 828-227-7234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Intercultural Affairs is a department on campus that assists in the regulation of cultural and social experiences. ICA’s purpose is as stated: “The Department of Intercultural Affairs (ICA) works with all members of the university to provide a campus environment where all students feel appreciated, respected and valued. Through educational, social and leadership programs, ICA promotes inclusive values of social justice and human dignity while preparing students to thrive in a diverse and interconnected world.” For more information about ICA, you can contact email@example.com or call 828-227-2276.