UPDATED: Plankers no longer protesting, rather supporting

A sticker reading “This spot has just been planked! Plank Responsibly.com” was stuck on Sunday to the base of the Henry Hardin Cherry statue at WKU. The stickers are part of why incoming student Tyler Webster has been banned from campus by the Office of Judicial Affairs.

UPDATED: The Facebook event originally dubbed “WKU Plank Protest for Tyler Webster” has been changed to “WKU Plank Support for Tyler Webster” after legal concerns rose with event starter Austin Alford.

Along with a name change, the event will take place at a different time and location. The group plans to meet at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 22 outside of Potter Hall, where Webster’s hearing with officials from the Office of Judicial Affairs will take place.

“We are just going to gather outside of the building until the meeting is over to show our support for him in hopes that they let him in WKU and lift the ban,” Alford said on the event’s Facebook wall.

Webster was issued a “trespass order” this past week for planking on campus, as well as advertising for his website, plankresponsibly.com, through stickers placed around campus.

ORIGINAL: A friend of Tyler Webster, an incoming student banned from campus after his planking hobby went belly-up, has planned a protest in response to WKU’s actions.

Business student Austin Alford on Sunday evening started the “WKU Plank Protest for Tyler Webster” Facebook event, set for noon-2 p.m. Saturday.

“We are planning a planking protest and we will all march through WKU’s campus and plank,” says the event’s description.

Alford said the event could be changed to Aug. 21, allowing for more people to attend after the MASTER Plan move-in. As of 9:30 p.m. CT Sunday, more than 130 people indicated they were attending the event, and an additional 2,000 had yet to respond to the invitation.

“Having those people support Tyler will help him through this ordeal,” said Alford, Webster’s best friend.

The protest will begin outside of Cherry Hall by the statue of former WKU President Henry Hardin Cherry.

A photo of Webster and friend Josh Lindsey planking on the Cherry statue ran on the front page of last Monday’s Bowling Green Daily News. The duo started the website plankresponsibly.com to encourage safe planking — an activity where people lay on objects in public.

In a letter dated on Tuessday and sent to Webster from the Office of Judicial Affairs, WKU issued a “trespass order” barring Webster from “being present on property owned or controlled by Western Kentucky University without prior permission from this Office.” Although the letter didn’t address planking specifically, it said, “This action is taken based on your not being currently enrolled and a report we received regarding your recent activity on campus.”

Webster provided the letter — marked confidential and signed by Michael Crowe, director of Judicial Affairs — to the Herald.

“I was really shocked,” Webster said. “I figured if the Daily News let me do it, there was nothing wrong with it. I didn’t understand why I was causing so much trouble.”

Deborah Wilkins, chief of staff and general counsel, later confirmed to the Daily News that Webster was issued the order for planking, as well as defacing statues on campus with stickers promoting his website.

Webster is hesitant to support the event because he remains unsure of how the Office of Judicial Affairs will perceive the protest.

“I’m probably against it because I don’t really want it to hurt me,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I hope it will help them realize I’m not a bad kid.”

Webster is in no way associated with the protest or its planning, and he won’t attend the event. On the Facebook event’s wall, Webster commented, “I can’t be there, i’ll go to jail :(“

Webster did say it felt good to know he had the support of so many people.

“I feel people supporting me” he said. “I had no idea they’d support me like that. It’s crazy.”

Alford, an 18-year-old Bowling Green resident and incoming WKU student, said he created the event in order to show support for Webster.

“Why does he deserve to get kicked out for something so small that didn’t harm anybody?” Alford said. “It outraged me. This is a young man who is very passionate about going to college.”

Alford hopes that when WKU officials see how many students support planking — which he called a “harmless fad” that won’t last — they will admit that a mistake was made and allow Webster back on campus.

Alford said he understands the university’s need to protect itself from potential liabilities that could come from planking injuries, but added that Webster nor his website promote any form of dangerous planking. In fact, Webster removes unsafe planks from plankresponsibly.com, including a photo of a planker on the field goal post at Smith Stadium.

The protest will be peaceful, foul language and obscene gestures will not be allowed, and participants will only plank safely, Alford said.

Alford said he’s prepared to deal with the consequences should WKU punish him for planking on campus.

“If they want to get me in trouble for trying to support a friend and something that’s harmless, that’s their take,” he said.

Since Webster received the letter from WKU, Alford said his friend has been upset.

“As soon as he got the letter, within 10 minutes, he called me and said, ‘Dude, I’m out of Western,’” Alford said.

“He was so discouraged and down,” Alford added. “ It’s just uncalled for.”

Webster, a Bowling Green resident, said he still hopes to attend WKU in the fall because of its location and family ties.

“I’m going to try and go to Western if they let me because I don’t want to go out of town for college,” he said. “My brother graduated from Western.”

Webster said his greatest wish is that people would forget the whole situation.

“I hope it blows over,” he said. “I know people are going to come up to me and talk to me about it because everyone knows about it — teachers and professors and everybody. I hope it doesn’t bring anything against me with them.”