College Heights Herald: 2017 Year in Review

Jocelyn Porter reads a copy of the Herald before Narrations, a storytelling event presented by the College Heights Herald, begins. Narrations was held on the top floor of Downing Student Union on Nov. 14 at 7pm.

2017 has been an eventful year. WKU and Bowling Green have seen many things come to pass, and many new faces along the way. Here’s a highlight of the most notable events and biggest stories of the year from the Herald.

The Bowling Green Massacre kicked off 2017 and drew in national attention to the city in early February. The ‘massacre’ was mentioned by President Donald Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway during an MSNBC interview.

The Bowling Green community held a ‘vigil’ which raised money for the International Center of Kentucky, and tweeted in mass about the ordeal.

Politics continued to be a heavy theme through the month with the inauguration of Trump and protests across the country, including here in Bowling Green. Students also flocked to Washington D.C. to watch, participate in and cover the protests and inauguration.

The University Senate, in response to a proposed travel ban by Trump back in February, passed a resolution to name WKU a sanctuary campus and for then president Gary Ransdell to “express his support” of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Ransdell declined the sanctuary campus designation

However, students and other university and community members continued to be vocal about DACA over the course of the semester. Several demonstrations were hosted by students in support of the program. 

18-year-old Lizbeth is one of nearly 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents without documentation who have been protected from deportation by DACA

Politics on a national level also continued to flow down to WKU. Early in 2017, Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspended immigration for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries including: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

This left Iranian student Elnaz Jalali worried. 

There was also unrest here at the Herald, as our university sued us over access to records concerning sexual misconduct investigations.

The university viewed that withholding these records would protect the victims of sexual misconduct. Attorney General Andy Beshear disagreed with this and claimed the university was responsible for releasing Title IX records. The fight is still ongoing.

Former Herald writer Nicole Ares won multiple awards for her extensive coverage of sexual misconduct records at Kentucky universities, including a Pacemaker for News Story of the Year.

On a lighter note, sports at WKU saw some changes, such as the first year of Coach Mike Sanford and the sponsorship switch to Nike.

In April, WKU athletics announced a deal with Nike, making them the new provider of on-field apparel. Russell Athletics was the provider for the past ten years. While they still licence other WKU merchandise, Nike is the on-field provider for the athletic teams. This change was seen as positive for the face of our sports teams.

There was also a change in on-field leadership, as Sanford served his first year as WKU’s football coach. Late in 2016, Jeff Brohm left us for Purdue, and Sanford signed on in his place

WKU went 6-7 for the very first year under him, 4-4 in Conference USA games. The team ended the year at the Cure Bowl. Despite a good showing, WKU lost 27-17 to Georgia State.

Sports saw pitfalls as well, with members of the football team getting involved in a fight at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house in March. The brawl involved three current and one former WKU football players. The story gained some traction on national news sites. 

The information came out later, but initially, the names of the involved players were not released, drawing scrutiny, as covered in the Walkthrough.

The players plead guilty in August to charges of second degree wanton endangerment by complicity and fourth degree assault under extreme emotional disturbance. They were placed on conditional discharge and had to pay the medical expenses of the man they fought, as well as complete community service.

One of the more drawn out events of WKU’s sporting world was that concerning Mitchell Robinson. At the start of the year, the five star McDonald’s all-American was lined up to play for WKU basketball. He was heavily hyped by the school and sports fans. 

Then, there was a tweet where he stated he decided to “decommit” from WKU. This tweet was swiftly attributed to a hack. His locker was found cleared out later, and soon enough it was announced that he was no longer going to be playing for the university. Robinson passed on college ball and focused instead on the next NBA draft. 

WKU has kept a solid season going, and has games to go before the basketball season is over. They’re sitting 9-5 overall, and 1-0 in conference for the year, at the time of publication.

WKU saw a massive change in administration, with the retirement of Gary , and Timothy Caboni taking his place as university president.

The university collectively said farewell to Ransdell through 2016. Spring 2017 was his final semester, ending 20 years as president. In the spring, the Herald staff produced a magazine chronicling Ransdell’s tenure as president

As soon as Caboni was announced as his replacement, eyes turned to learn more about the bow tie wearing man and what he would hold for dear old Western. Former Herald reporter Jacob Dick traveled to Kansas to find out more.

Caboni made many changes, making himself and his motives clear. He moved away from Ransdell’s policy of being “A leading American university with international reach.” He took on office hours to meet with students, and opened up greater communication in general with students, staff and faculty. The Herald looked back on these and other shifts under his administration, but we have plenty more time to see what our new president has in store.

The university also continues to face a budget deficit hovering around $10 to $15 million; in response, Caboni put together several strategic planning committees to address this issue and several others facing the university. Drops in enrollment and retention will continue to be issues WKU will grapple with in the new year. 

Over the summer, a WKU student saw a bit of unexpected fame while working as a groundskeeper for the St. Louis Cardinals. After a cat rushed out on the field during a crucial part of the game, WKU student Luke Hackmann rushed after it and retrieved it. Hackmann suffered small injuries, and the cat was deemed a lucky token for the team.

The fall semester had a stellar start. The academic year was delayed a day, due to a full solar eclipse. The university provided solar eclipse viewers and plenty of locations with food and fun to celebrate the cosmic event. Bowling Green was within the area where the eclipse would reach totality, having the moon completely cover the sun. This brought in some tourism, and made for an especially memorable start.

The university kept it’s momentum moving with Homecoming, this year’s theme was “No Place like WKU,” to celebrate our new president’s Kansas origins. Alumni and families flocked to the Hill. Toppers took a 45-14 victory over Charlotte, and enjoyed the usual tailgating and other festivities.

Besides a change in president and football coach, 2017 brought in a new chief of WKUPD. Mitchell Walker officially took over, after having served as the interim police chief after the retirement of Chief Robert Deane.

The police department have been making strides in many ways. The Herald covered this in a piece about the diversity in the WKU Police Department, and how it’s seen to build trust among the people of Bowling Green and students of WKU.

One story put out by the Herald seemed to hit a chord with an issue that affects many students: The lack of parking on campus. WKU sold over 9,700 parking permits for just over 7,000 parking spots on campus. The story got traction on facebook, with people expressing their rage over never being able to find parking on campus.

Later in October, Bowling Green held it’s first Pride Festival. This was the inaugural Pride Fest, followed by a Pride Crawl of local businesses that supported a fairness ordinance.

The ordinance has not been passed by city commission. Despite being read earlier in the year, it was tabled without discussion. The ordinance would add sexual orientation and gender as protected categories in existing civil rights laws. This would prohibit businesses, housing, and other venues from discrimination against LGBT+ people. Many are still waiting for this to be passed.

Drifting back in politics, when President Donald Trump announced a policy change to not allow transgender individuals to be recruited into the army, Morgantown junior Levi Hanson’s plans were forced to change. 

There were also important changes made to WKU’s Queer Student Union, so WKU is more prepared to address needs in the LGBTQ community.

The end of the year held many small surprises in store. Not all were pleasant, such as the university “allocating” student-earned money away from the Herald.

There was also a mixed, but mostly positive view, on nixing the foreign language requirement for those who completed it in high school.

And, of course, there was no more interesting way to end the year than with a warning about a sword-weilding man running around on campus, topping off the warnings of gun shots through the winter. 

So here’s to an interesting 2018, and everything it will bring for WKU and Bowling Green.