Kansas State University’s president and provost are telling the campus community to tone down the racism in social networking posts on issues such as the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and the police-choking death of Eric Garner in New York.
In an online message to all students and employees, president Kirk Schulz and university provost April Mason praised campus groups trying “to have a wide-ranging dialogue on racial tensions” in the wake of the national controversies.
But, “In stark contrast to these positive efforts, another dialogue has been taking place behind the anonymity of social media,” Shulz and Mason’s message said. “On these platforms, the dialogue has been base, racist and often hateful. This reflects poorly on the entire K-State family and even more poorly on the individuals who are making these posts.
“The K-State community is better than this and we expect more of ourselves.”
The message ends with a plea for recipients to review the K-State Principles of Community, a document outlining the university’s core ideals in regard to diversity, civility and free expression.
The administration felt compelled to say something after learning that profane racist messages were being transmitted around campus through the social networking app Yik Yak, said Jeff Morris, vice president of communications and marketing at K-State.
Popular with college students, Yik Yak allows people to post anonymous opinions or gossip to be read by others in their geographic area. Students often use it to comment on each other or professors, Morris said.
“It’s really kind of a snarkfest, to be honest,” he said.
Administrators felt they needed to say something when some of the snarkiness turned in a racist direction after the national race controversies erupted, Morris said. He said the university monitors social media and in this case acted on complaints relayed through Twitter.
He said it’s becoming a problem on campuses across the country and that administrators at the University of Missouri sent a similar message to their students.
Schulz and Mason’s message was sent through K-State Today, a message system that is mandatory-participation for all students, faculty and staff. It came out hours before an on-campus event to talk about race relations, which was scheduled for Thursday night and organized by the Black Student Union and the Staley School of Leadership.
“Given recent national events, this thoughtful approach is a shining example of student and campus leadership,” Schulz and Mason’s message said. “We encourage all students, faculty and staff to engage in conversation about how we can be respectful in our differences.”
Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.