Cruel incident turns into an educational experience


Alyssa Storm

Washburn University strives to be an inclusive place for all. The Campus Climate Team worked to follow the process to the best of its ability.

Turn on any news station and you will find a story about a racist incident occurring. Some of these incidents could be avoided if people would just take a moment to stop and consider what messages can occur stemming from their actions.
On Feb. 1, four male students, one of whom was the RA for the LLC, were seen putting a noose around the neck of a life-sized skeleton and a Tide Pod in the skeleton’s mouth on the floor lobby at the Living Learning Center. Pictures and screenshots of this spread like wildfire across students’ phones.

Many students of color saw this as a racially motivated act because it happened on the first day of Black History Month.

Megan Dorantes, one of many students who saw this posted on Snapchat, called one of the men involved in the incident to inform him of his insincerity.

“We [Dorantes and a friend] immediately called them and we’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ And they laughed the first time and then they started apologizing,” Dorantes said. “We’re like, ‘You don’t get this; something’s not clicking’.”

Dorantes, being a student of color, expressed her feelings about why what was displayed was so offensive.

“For a person of color, when they first see this, it was very much: ‘So you don’t see me as a person, you want me gone, you want me dead, you want me hanging on this noose’,” Dorantes said. “Even if it was seen as a joke about mental illness, or even the fact that it was about a pirate theme and how pirates used to hang themselves… Taking that aside: why are we making jokes about suicide? Why are we making jokes about mental illnesses? Why are we making jokes about people hanging themselves?”

To handle this incident the Campus Climate Team got called in. The goal of this team is to cultivate an inclusive learning, living and working community, facilitating the success of all people and supporting all individuals.

“This is that process that we now have available to us specifically for things like this,” said Eric Grospitch, vice president for student life.

The incident was first reported to the university and once the University decided that no policy was violated, the case was handed over to the Campus Climate Team. From there, they reviewed what had happened and came up with a timely and appropriate plan. The steps that they would be following are: assign a member of the inclusive Washburn network to the students involved, refer them to the proper unit and follow up with the student.

Because this happened in a dorm building, education is being pushed in that direction in hopes that it would reach many people.

“So Molly Pierson, the director of residential living, is working with her team to do some more educational outreach in those environments to just try to raise the acknowledgement of what some of this means. I think that’s going to be a big one. And again, the latter part is really looking at what our policies are: do our policies still match intent and still match our current environments?” Grospitch said.

Since the incident, talk has died down, but that doesn’t mean the conversations should stop.

“I think we have to be aware that diversity and inclusion conversations are going to continue. We’ve got to keep them continuing. This incident itself is one part of the conversation,” Grospitch said. “We’ve got to keep working and growing and trying to make this campus feel safe, welcoming, supportive and secure for all of our students, but that means all of our students.”

Dorantes, as well as other students, would like to see more being done about the issue aside from the conversations.

“People need to be held accountable. It can’t just be having discussions. It can’t just be, ‘Oh, you’re going to go to training.’ There needs to be physical action to be taken because the discussions will do nothing,” Dorantes said.

As of now, the University is working on meeting with the students involved.

Edited by: Justin Shepard, Simran Shrestha