SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Minority students at Shippensburg University hope a racist Facebook post will help start a needed conversation about race on campus.
The post, written by what administrators said is a former student, describes black students as “dark meat” and says the school brought in “inner city garbage” to make it more diverse.
The former student has apologized, the administration said, but for minority students, who make up 23 percent of the student body, it’s a disturbing reality they hope will change.
Inside Ship’s Multicultural Student Affairs building early Thursday afternoon, senior psychology major Tiara Smith tallied up speakers for a Black Lives Matter vigil on campus set to take place a few hours later.
“There should never be a time where students feel like they’re alone,” she said. “And I think that that is a huge part in it.”
She was “shocked” by the Facebook post. “To bring it to campus was not something that I expected,” she said, but like other students, she hopes it’s an opportunity.
“There are so many students,” Smith said. “We just don’t understand each other.”
“There are a lot of different perspectives, a lot of different histories, a lot of different stories,” Nicholas Johnson said.
Johnson, also a student, organized the evening vigil. It was planned even before the social media post.
“There is a problem,” he said, “and it’s not going to be solved unless everyone comes to the table.”
It’s a problem the administration was expecting to encounter.
“We knew that we would be engaging issues of difference, issues around race,” dean of students Dr. David Lovett said, adding they’ve received concerned letters and emails from alumni, parents, and students about the Facebook post.
Before the semester started, they planned to restart two university programs to address those issues. Students troupes participating in Building Bridges take over classrooms to start those conversations. That program was stopped due to funding cuts in years past.
In Living Color relies on skits and other types of performances to introduce students to experiences they might not have had themselves.
“And so we’re looking for partnerships with faculty to make those programs viable,” Lovett said.
Johnson is a part of those, too. As cliche as it sounds, he said, starting the conversation is important.
“[The Facebook post] was addressed and now it’s creating an avenue for us to go back and look at what we can do differently so that this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
There are mixed feelings on campus about the administration’s response to the controversy. But students like Johnson and Smith say either way, conversations can breed understanding.
“You don’t really let it get to you,” Smith said, “but at some point in time it’s going to hurt.”