EDITORIAL: University promises open dialogue following recent events


Editor’s note: This editorial contains graphic language. 

The Issue: The WKU community has recently come face-to-face with two incidents of particularly vile, blatant forms of racism.

Our Stance: WKU is now taking a stand against these acts and is committing to moving forward to address this climate. None of us should remain apathetic and we must all work toward a solution.

First, it was Cheyenne Mitchell, a Lexington senior who had her car vandalized with the N-word after a brief altercation between a friend of hers and the man who allegedly vandalized her car.

More recently, it was Michelle Jones, assistant dean of the University College, who reported finding three threatening notes containing racist language in her office.

Jones wouldn’t describe all of the hate speech in the letters when asked by a Herald reporter, but did say one of the letters stated “this is bullshit, you should take your black ass back to Africa so this campus and America can be great again.”

As an editorial board, we’ve already voiced our opinion after the incident with Mitchell’s car: that the university must take strong, defined steps in confronting this kind of hateful climate.

Our opinion has not wavered in the short amount of time since Mitchell’s car was vandalized and it certainly will not change now in light of what Jones has also endured.

What has changed, however, is what WKU is now committing to.

On Sunday night, members of the Herald editorial board met with David Lee, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Dawn Hall, interim director of the School of University Studies, Lynne Holland, dean of students, and Robbin Taylor, vice president for public affairs, about the letters Jones had received and the steps WKU is taking moving forward.

During the meeting, Holland and Lee spoke about wanting to engage faculty, staff and students on a grassroots level about these issues instead of opting for a top-down approach as an institution.

Some of these initiatives, which Holland spoke of, included a sort of “think tank” that would include faculty, staff and students engaged in discussions on matters of civility, tolerance and issues of diversity

Lee said instead of a few people making the decisions up in the Wetherby Administration Building and having it trickle down in that manner, engaging the campus community at the base level and moving up would be the more appropriate way to combat this strain of hatred.

In regards to engaging the WKU community at a more grassroots level, instead of coming top-down, we agree with the steps WKU is now taking.

President Gary Ransdell in an open letter to WKU urged everyone to participate in opportunities to “discuss issues of intolerance and the racial tensions” that are happening around us and seek ways to make a positive difference.

From a student perspective, we cannot stress how important it is for students to be part of this ongoing dialogue. Engaging faculty and staff is important, but students also need to be part of the discussion as we play integral roles in shaping campus ourselves.

Furthermore, we cannot give into apathy as we strive to move forward. We cannot subscribe to a school of thought that just because this might not be happening to us or people we know that it does not matter, or that it’s not our issue to confront.

While displaying shock at these acts is understandable and appropriate, do not let it blind you to other more covert acts of racism.

Take a stand when someone uses the N-word and other forms of derogatory language, but also take a stand when someone makes a passing racial joke, or insinuates another person as lesser than them.

Do not let yourself become numbed.

We have an opportunity before us to better shape this campus for everyone, and for our students, faculty and staff of color especially and we shouldn’t scoff at it or blow it off.

These conversations will not be easy and they will be painful, but WKU has not been a university to back down from difficult issues and we won’t back down now.