Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell is calling for new campus initiatives to discourage prejudice following two racial incidents targeting an African American student and an assistant dean.
In an email to faculty and staff on Tuesday, Ransdell said some goals include the creation of a diversity committee, hosting campus forums on race issues and an anti-prejudice marketing campaign through WKU's website and social media networks.
Ransdell's message follows a recent incident in which Michelle Jones, assistant dean of the University College, found a statement slipped under her office door attacking her for being African American. A month earlier, Lexington senior Cheyenne Mitchell, who is also African American, found her parked car keyed with a racial epithet and other scratches. Mitchell said at the time the vandalism could have been over a parking space in Parking Structure 2 that her friend was saving for her.
When Bowling Green senior Mediha Golubovic heard the news Tuesday, she was disappointed.
"I don't understand why people are so hateful," she said. "Nobody cares about each other anymore."
Golubovic said she supported the efforts described by Ransdell, but she doubted they would have much effect.
"I think people just ignore the race issue," she said, adding that white and black students stick to their own cliques. "It's not like we're a whole university, and I think that's what needs to stop."
Mary-Martin Carter, a senior from Franklin, Tenn., agreed.
"I think the university (institution) itself is making a good effort," she said. "Unless something bad happens I think it's not talked about."
Ransdell said WKU wants to address the issue by encouraging conversation and being inclusive of minority students.
"Generally, it is our intent to calmly make sure our positive institutional values are pervasive across our campus," he said in the email. "Specifically, we want to make sure that our faculty and staff effectively educate our students who harbor thoughts of racial prejudice about the constructiveness of tolerance, embracement, and love of those different from them."
To accomplish that goal, Ransdell called for the creation of a "President's Committee on Diversity and Embracement." He described the committee as an ongoing oversight group responsible for bolstering civility and respect on campus and addressing any racial intolerance in the future. Other projects, he said, include soliciting help from university friends, consultants or guest speakers and hosting campus conversations on inclusion.
Ransdell also thanked others for positive feedback he's gotten and said it's shown him the campus is committed to doing better.
"There may be other things that we choose to do or create going forward," he said. "But these particular steps will facilitate a helpful conversation about the embracement of differences among us and create a campus culture steeped in civility and human respect."
That goal was shared by Kymberley Wiley, an African American student, who said she hopes the university does something to show "it's dedication to diversity and acceptance of all people." She suggested having more joint events between student organizations that are mainly white or black in their membership.
Wiley said she's never felt targeted because of her race and was shocked and surprised to hear of the two incidents. She decided to attend school outside of her hometown in Springfield, Fla., because of WKU's focus on international and ethnic students.
"I really wanted to go to where I felt like I would belong," she said.
— Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.