Campus environment turns tense post-election


Emma Collins

Following the results of the 2016 presidential election, a series of protests along with verbal and written messages have created a tense climate on WKU’s campus.

After Donald Trump was declared the winner of the election in the early hours last Wednesday, supporters and those who do not agree with him have publicly as well as anonymously shared these disagreements.

The conflicts started almost immediately, with protests and confrontations, and grew to the point that both President Gary Ransdell and Student Government Association President Jay Todd Richey released a joint statement calling for the university community to make peace and resume showing respect for each other.

“Over the past few days, our university community has witnessed numerous incidents of hateful behavior … ,” Ransdell and Richey wrote in the letter released late Friday. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”

The largest conflict occurred Wednesday night when students who opposed Trump held a protest outside of Pearce-Ford Tower. Several students chanted as they held up signs denouncing Trump, and the display eventually drew a large crowd of both Trump opponents and those who support him.

As the protest grew, the atmosphere quickly turned hostile with several altercations occurring between those with opposing views. Some students burned holes in Trump campaign banners while others yelled chants.

The crowd attracted the attention of the campus police, and eventually, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office was called. Sheriff’s deputies arrested five students for refusing to leave and disorderly conduct.

Marianna Baker, an 18-year-old from Junction City, was one of the students arrested. Baker said she believed the protest was necessary because of the election results.

“I think it was needed,” Baker told the Herald as she was being arrested. “I don’t think it was violent in any way. I think it was some people coming together to express their opinion in a very intense time.”

Earlier last Wednesday, a group of anti-Trump protesters, including some WKU students, marched from the Warren County Justice Center to Fountain Square Park. Participants held signs criticizing the president-elect.

Since the election, some students have also received anonymous notes containing negative messages referring to race, religion and sexuality. Princeton freshman Helen Vickrey, an SGA member and chair of MyCampusToo, said a fellow SGA member showed her a racist note his Pakistani friend had found outside of his apartment at Hilltop Club, formerly College Suites.

The note contained a racial slur and ended with “Trump 2016.” Several similar notes posted on Facebook referenced Trump and said it was “time to purge.”

Vickrey said she was also sent a picture of a poster found on campus near the top of the hill. The poster called for white people to take a stand against anti-white propaganda and to end white genocide. It contained links to two white supremacy websites.

“I have received many pictures…not only from campus but of Bowling Green in general of people receiving either threats or receiving notes that fall into that of a hate crime,” Vickrey said. “And every time I have seen ‘Trump 2016’ on these notes.”

Messages containing sexually explicit language were also found written in chalk on campus. This messages also expressed satisfaction regarding Trump’s victory. Other messages called for the deportation of certain minority groups.

Vickrey said she first saw the messages on Nov. 6 when she was walking back to her dorm around midnight. Vickrey said she noticed several messages outside of the Downing Student Union that said “build that wall” and “deport them all.”

Similar messages were found written on the ground on Thursday night and Friday morning. A group of students spent several hours canvassing campus and washing off the derogatory messages. Some of the messages were also cleaned off by the university’s facilities staff on Friday morning.

One message read, “America is now great Obama sucks (explicit)” with “Trump 2016” below.

Other messages used explicit language when referring to Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.

In response to the messages, students began to write positive messages such as “you are loved.” Those messages and the purely political ones such as “Trump 2016” were not washed off by the students.

In response to the unrest on campus and the protest near PFT, Ransdell released a statement urging the WKU community to treat each other with respect. He encouraged the community to make an extra effort to embrace one another.

“Our African-American students and our international students, particularly our Muslim students, and those in our LGBTQ family may be feeling a sense of uncertainty,” Ransdell wrote. “We love them all and treasure what they bring to this richly diverse family.”

Ransdell’s statement was emailed to all faculty, staff and students and posted on his Facebook page. Many of the comments on his post praised Ransdell for releasing a statement that urged unity. Other comments, however, accused Ransdell of discriminating against white people, particularly white males.

One individual referred to Ransdell as “Gary ‘white people don’t [sic] deserve respect’ Ransdell.” Others called Ransdell “hypocritical” because of his different response four years ago when President Barack Obama was elected to his second term in office.

“It is great to live in a nation where the people decide who shall lead,” Randsell wrote on Facebook on Nov. 7, 2012.

Those who called him hypocritical criticized Ransdell’s change in tone for Trump’s election. They said he did not offer any words to those who were upset by Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012.

Several people who commented also accused Ransdell of racism against white people because of a tweet made after election day by Alexandria Kennedy, student activities coordinator and former adviser for Greek organizations.

In the tweet, Kennedy used explicit language to refer to people who had voted for Trump as “racist” and “homophobic.” Some people who commented on the post accused Ransdell of racism because of what they perceived as his lack of response to Kennedy’s tweet.

Kennedy could not be reached for comment at the time of publication. Director of Student Activities Charley Pride said Kennedy still works for Student Activities but is no longer the adviser for greek organizations.

The statement from Ransdell and Richey late Friday, which was published on the Herald’s website, urged students to take action if they see someone being targeted.

“Be kind to one another, support one another, and do all that you can to keep this place open to all,” the statement read. “We will stand with all of you every step of the way.”

The Division of Student Affairs Social Justice Working Group, the Counseling and Testing Center and the office of the Chief Diversity Officer also opened up space for discussion when they hosted an open discussion forum Friday evening.

“Several members of the university community will be present as we gather to engage in dialogue about election results, get to know one another, and explore ways we can create a more cohesive and respectful university community,” an email announcing the event said.

During the conversation, participants, many of whom were minorities and women, expressed their fear about the next four years.

Haley Lee, a senior from Hardinsburg, said she heard about the event from her African-American literature class. Her professor suggested students attend the event after the class had an emotional discussion about the election.

“I was crying, other people were crying,” Lee said. “Some students already talked about how they already received hate.”

Lee said she was particularly scared because of the derogatory comments Trump made about women. Earlier this year, a video surfaced of Trump having a lewd conversation about women in 2005. Lee said those comments were especially disturbing.

“It makes me sick to my stomach and also slightly fearful because he is now representing us and people are going to look up to him,” Lee said.

Other participants in the discussion said they were scared because people seemed more open to expressing racist beliefs after Trump won. One woman spoke about comments her young niece had received from classmates. Another woman described the president elect’s win and his comments as “disturbing.”

Other faculty and staff members have organized events in order to help ease students fears surrounding the election.

The day after the election, Lacretia Dye, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Student Affairs, held a meditation following the election to reduce “sadness.”

“Tonight we can sit together in meditation and hold space for each other,” Dye said in the announcement for the event.

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 27-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @__emma_collins__.