Less than 24 hours after Larry Snyder announced his resignation as dean of Potter College of Arts and Letters, a small group of students gathered outside Wetherby Administration Building. They held signs, chanted and sang a “freedom song.”
During the rest of the week, the protests grew in size and spilled over to social media, chalk and flyers.
The Student Government Association Executive Council released a statement Monday, April 1 asking for the student body to be informed on the circumstances surrounding Snyder’s resignation “immediately.”
“With students missing class to protest and many concerned about the future of their respective majors, it is of the utmost importance that the student body be informed about the situation,” the statement said.
Monday afternoon, Provost Terry Ballman spoke publicly for the first time since Snyder’s resignation in an open forum hosted by SGA.
Ballman said during the dialogue Snyder was “absolutely not” asked to resign for any reason related to misconduct.
She said she would not comment on the reason for his resignation because it’s a personnel matter and that she couldn’t comment on personnel matters “because it’s private.”
Ballman was formerly the dean of the College of Arts and Letters at California State University, San Bernardino.
When asked by SGA President Stephen Mayer if Potter College and Ogden College of Science and Engineering would merge, Ballman was adamant in expressing that the colleges would remain separate.
“That is not the way this university will be organized, that is not part of the thinking at all,” she said. “I think that does not make sense to me.”
One point brought up during the dialogue was the apparent washing away of chalk art left by the students. Some chalk art read “justice for Dean Snyder,” and “tell us why.”
In a statement provided to the Herald, student protestors Arielle Conrad, Cavan Hendron, Matthew Kerman, Morgan Stevens and Tommy Sullivan said they were not aligned with any campus organizations or members of SGA.
“The only messages we’ve written are “Tell Us Why” and “No Comment,” the statement read. “Other chalking has come from other students who are not associated with us.”
There were several reports from protestors of the chalk messages being erased by Facilities Management on Monday, with several students claiming that the drawings that said “tell us why,” were singled out and washed away with pressure washers.
Bryan Russell, chief facilities officer, confirmed that one message was erased Monday morning containing “inappropriate language.” Russell said Facilities Management does not typically remove any messages from campus unless they are deemed inappropriate or threatening.
President Timothy Caboni tweeted Monday evening that he was aware of reports of chalking being washed away on campus.
“I have communicated to WKU facilities that our university supports this type of expression and that it should not be erased,” he wrote in the tweet.
On Monday, students said they decided to move from outside Wetherby to Downing Student Union to reach more students. Many of the students initially present at the protests were from departments within Potter College, but they notified classmates and friends from other colleges, encouraging them to join.
Flyers were passed around DSU by students asking for “transparency and honesty from our administrators, especially Provost Ballman and President Caboni.”
There has also been a large response to the resignation on social media. Several anonymous Twitter accounts have been created, satirizing the resignation, administration and protests, including a false Twitter account for Ballman, which has since been deleted.
Melissa Rush is a current non-traditional student and has been a part of WKU as a student, parent, spouse and donor.
In an email to the Herald, Rush said she was highly concerned “with the firing of Dean Snyder as well as the multiple other decisions that seem to have been made behind closed doors.”
“My late husband’s grandmother was a graduate in the 1920s, his parents in the 1960s, my husband graduated in 1986, and my daughter in 2014,” she wrote. “I am disheartened to see the decline of what was once a stellar university. I am an English major in my final year and have had the most incredible professors. I’m afraid with continued decisions made such as the one with Dean Snyder, WKU will no longer attract stellar students or professors.”
Kevin Mays is an alumni of WKU and a Bowling Green resident. His daughter, Remington Mays, is a current student at WKU. He was initially excited when she chose to attend WKU, but now feels that the culture has changed significantly since his time as a student.
“Times change, and I might have a more romanticized view, but this doesn’t seem to be the same Western I knew,” he said. “Had I known what it was like now, I might have encouraged [my daughter] to go somewhere else.”
Mays said he has known Snyder personally, serving on several leadership roles with him at their church. He said he saw how passionate Snyder was about his position as dean.
“He was serving in a role that meant everything to him,” Mays said. “He was deeply devoted to what he did.”
He said it was “quite a shock” when he learned of Snyder’s resignation, and that he has been disappointed in the manner with which the administration has handled the situation.
“They’re lacking transparency,” he said. “Regardless that my child goes to WKU and I’m paying tuition, I think there’s more to the story than what they’re saying.”
Assistant News Editor Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @emilydeletter.