EDITORIAL: Response to recent WKU Alerts alarming

Herald Staff

The ISSUE: After WKU texts alerts were sent the past two weekends notifying students that there had been crimes on campus, students took to Twitter to express their feelings — many of them containing prejudiced and racist sentiments.

OUR STANCE: While the Herald has always supported free speech, we do not support hate speech. We believe the outrage expressed last weekend by some students was misguided.

On April 15, a WKU text alert was sent that read: “Robbery just occurred poss. 2 Blk men sus. 1 wore blue shirt light shorts other wore dark clothing. Do not approach.” Minutes later, a second text was sent reading: “Robbery Incident occurred near Preston Center. Suspects went towards PFT parking lot.”

With a shooting happening at the nearby Lava Lounge nightclub — where two WKU football players were shot — just the night before, this naturally caused distress to students.

On Sunday, another text was sent out alerting students of an assault near campus. This also prompted many students to once again take to Twitter to voice their distress. However, reading through the #WKU Twitter timeline, many could read WKU students tweeting things that exhibited prejudice or flat-out racism.

Almost instantly, tweets appeared that read: “#wku of course robbery suspect went toward #PFT. What’s next suspect was last seen eating Popeyes?”; “To all the ‘black males’ on wku campus, you make me scared to go to my car to get my cigs. Thank you.”; and “WKU: A Dangerous American University with Hood Reach.”

Students should be outraged that there was a robbery on campus, not that the suspects were black. The only relevance the race of the suspects has is to identify and ultimately arrest them. It does not serve as an indicator that all blacks are thieves or are looking to mug someone.

The fact remains that the two black suspects alleged in the recent crimes committed on campus have no bearing or reflection on the black students who attend WKU, and it is shamefully ignorant to believe so. Twitter is often referred to as a network where people can have open conversation and connect with each other. A simple hashtag on a word can take you to what millions of people are discussing.

The Herald encourages the use of Twitter for that purpose and we also encourage free speech in such a forum. But what we don’t support is hate speech, which is not protected by the First Amendment. The Herald is disappointed in the conversations that were brought up in the wake of all of these incidences.

We can’t help but believe that the sentiment expressed last weekend represents a larger belief held by the students on this campus, one steeped in stereotypes and oversimplified images.

What are students saying about Muslim students, or gay students, or Middle Eastern students? On a campus such as WKU, one that strives for diversity, it is critical that students are accepting of one another and not letting the stereotypes they see or hear about determine how they perceive someone who doesn’t look like them.

While African-Americans have come a long way at WKU, last week proved that we, as a university, still have a long way to go before we can begin to consider this a fully accepting campus.

Part of the Western Creed is to “celebrate and embrace diversity,” yet the comments made last week were not celebratory in the least. It seemed that if you were black and on WKU’s campus, then you were automatically termed “hood” by some, or if you were a black male in between the time the first and second text was sent, you were a suspect.

Crime on campus is certainly a terrible thing and a problem we hope the police solve quickly, but there is another problem we hope is solved just as quickly. Simply put, racism and prejudice have no place on the Hill.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member editorial board.