On Feb.10, concerned students met with the EWU administration to discuss the racist, homophobic and sexist comments from an online gossip site. The discussion did not revolve around whether or not the comments on the Web site were offensive.
The comments are so obviously hateful and slanderous that even the gossipers call each other’s posts “stupid racist bullshit” and “straight up evil.”
The administration instead focused on the following question: Is this Web site the result of a few ignorant students who have taken their freedom of speech rights too far, or is it indicative of broader campus culture?
In my opinion, online gossip is indicative of campus culture and not just of EWU’s campus. There are 1,674 schools across the nation registered with this campus gossip Web site.
The popularity must raise concerns about campus cultures all over the U.S. It should at least give us pause that when handed the opportunity to anonymously express themselves, thousands of students call each other f*gs, sl*ts and n*gg*rs. Their speech is hateful and demonstrates an alarming disregard for the emotional well-being and physical safety of their fellow students.
In an e-mail last week, President Rodolfo Arévalo said that “we are taking swift action to take a meaningful stand against this kind of behavior and to heighten awareness on important issues involving race, diversity and tolerance.”
I am sure that the administration realizes that its public response to this site will confront campus culture to shape campus culture and that a “meaningful stand” will require more than a vague mass e-mail.
The EWU students who attended last Wednesday’s meeting have bold, thoughtful ideas about how to communicate that hate speech and the attitudes that inspire it will not be accepted on this campus.
These students also have ideas about how to change campus culture. The administration has the opportunity to make EWU a model university, one that takes students’ health and well-being seriously and incorporates the students’ suggestions in its stand against online campus gossip, a disturbing nationwide trend.