White power propaganda and rocks in bags were found around campus Wednesday and many student leaders on campus spoke out against the actions of the person or people who left the bags.
Most fliers had the message “White Power, Get Some!” printed on it along with a swastika.
Many of the student leaders expressed anger and fear for the situation but also a sense of strong community and pride in the groups they represent.
Lulu Shimonde, NAACP president and junior psychology major, said she was disappointed when she heard of the bags.
“My first reaction was honest, genuine disappointment. Of course, I’m outraged and the rage came afterwards but at first I felt genuine disappointment followed by fear and discomfort and then outrage,” Shimonde said. “It’s a weird experience. It’s a weird feeling that washes over you when you find out that some place considered to be safe is no longer safe to you.”
Diana Argueta, president of the Latin American Student Organization and sophomore graphic design major, said her worry turned into anger when she heard about the bags.
“I was scared. I was outraged. I’m still outraged, but this just proves the point that this needs to be a wakeup call,” Argueta said. “The fact that someone was bold enough to place that and say ‘White Power, Get Some!’ basically as recruitment is bold because it’s kind of turning EIU against EIU and I don’t think EIU wants to stand for that.”
Student Body President Carson Gordon, a senior political science major, said she felt the bags were against Eastern’s motto “All In.”
“It’s disappointing. We talk about as a campus how we’re all in and I know as a student leader I mean that, so it’s really disheartening to see that people are trying to tear other people down,” Gordon said. “Honestly I’m shocked and I’m disappointed.”
Student leaders weren’t the only people on campus who saw the bags and were concerned.
Billy Hung, associate professor of biology, said it felt like he had been punched when he found out.
“Well the first reaction is really like a gut punch, very clear deliberate effort to make you feel excluded,” Hung said. “It’s different from a general atmosphere that you feel like maybe you’re not welcome in some context but when you see a message like that it just doesn’t leave anything to the imagination.”
Following the spread of news of the bags, Eastern President David Glassman sent an email to the Eastern community.
In his email Glassman criticized the acts of those who put out the bags:
“As President of EIU, I intensely condemn these materials of hatred and propaganda. These materials have no place on our campus, and wholly contradict the university’s commitments to its core values of diversity, inclusivity and equity.”
Glassman asked that people who find the bags report them to the University Police Department and said that if those responsible are found, the university will pursue the matter to fullest extent of the law as well as university policy.
Glassman finished his email by saying, “EIU leaders will continue to work alongside all members of our campus to vigorously confront these challenges and foster a true sense of inclusion and community for all.”
Some felt that his email was not enough of a response to the situation.
Argueta said she felt that Glassman should take a stronger stance than just his email.
“He hasn’t gone out in public and said ‘this is unacceptable.’ There has been no action take and I understand completely they haven’t found somebody but at the end of the day an email isn’t going to cut it because that can easily go to someone’s junk mail or they can just not read it,” Argueta said. “I feel like since President Glassman has the authority, whether it be President Glassman or the Board of Trustees, since they have the authority and they know how they want Eastern to be represented they should take a lot more action to let this person know that it’s unacceptable whether you’re a student or a townie or whatever.”
However, some found the email to be beneficial.
Jeanne Ludlow, professor of English and women, gender and sexuality studies, said she was unaware of the situation until she received Glassman’s email.
“I found out from Dr. Glassman’s email that he sent out to everybody. And so, I honestly didn’t quite know what was going on,” Ludlow said. “But I was very appreciative of the email and that it went out so quickly that I actually hadn’t had the chance to hear about it in another way.”
Some student leaders expressed concerns of how fellow students in their lives are feeling.
Argueta said during the LASO general body meeting many students spoke out about feeling uncomfortable and unsafe on campus following the bags and said she felt Eastern needed to take action.
“They’re scared, but they want something to be done about it and we’re waiting but we can’t wait much longer because at the end of the day the more we wait on this, the more we wait on an action from somebody with authority, the more that this person is going to be like ‘OK, well I can mess around more, I can make my little pranks and I can scare more people off,’” Argueta said. “I don’t think Eastern wants that, so I think they need to take action and they need to take action immediately.”
Shimonde said the bags made her more aware of her surroundings and herself.
“This makes me more aware of my image. It made me hyper-aware of who I’m surrounded by and where I’m walking and what I’m doing and it made me realize that this is a moment where I’m going to have to take time for myself to create my own comfort zone, create a safe space for myself and then move forward and create that for other students,” Shimonde said.
She added that since the bags were found, she has become more aware of her position as a student leader.
“In the role that I fill, I know that this is a time where people are going to be looking for people to answer questions and for reassurance, and it’s really nerve-wracking knowing that I’m one of the people who’s being asked,” Shimonde said. “The people on my board are being asked questioned that I don’t think we wanted to happen but now it’s time to step forward and be that person, but I’m scared. I’m worried.”
Shimonde said the worry she feels is for her safety and for the safety of students of color on campus.
“I’m worried I’m going to go to Walmart and take too long and something’s going to happen to me,” Shimonde said. “I’m worried somebody I know might go somewhere and something’s going to happen to them, so now it’s just like a looming sense of discomfort.
Gordon said she thinks the incident highlighted a popular campus belief.
“There’s been a stigma around this area because it is a rural area about community members and local people having certainly stigmas towards people of other backgrounds, and I think it almost goes to show that those aren’t exactly rumors,” Gordon said.
Taylor Comer, a sophomore sociology major and president of Delta Sigma Pi, is a Jewish student and found one of the bags on her vehicle.
Comer said she hopes the university takes action following the incident and talks about the issue at hand.
“When things get dirty, they just don’t wanna talk about it. They want to sugarcoat everything, and we highlight all the great things,” Comer said. “But you have to face the reality that we are the safest, but that doesn’t mean we are completely resistant to hate crimes and what other crimes happen at college.”
Shimonde said she hopes the university learns from the incident.
“I hope the university takes this as a sign that despite how unified and how inclusive they make it seem and they feel the campus is that not everything is as perceived and they should take this as an opportunity to move forward,” Shimonde said.
A message to students
Student leaders have expressed that they want to students to know that they have support on campus.
Shimonde said students of color should know they deserve to be at Eastern.
“I think it’s important to understand that by being on campus and being a person of color on campus that you’re already fulfilling a role that is deserving to you. You deserve to be here, you have earned your right to be here and your right to be a person of color by being a person of color in society,” Shimonde said. “There is no need to constantly explain yourself; there’s no need to bow your head or move through spaces in fear.”
Ludlow said she hopes students know the support they have on campus despite those who left the bags.
“Counseling is important because racism is a trauma,” Ludlow said. “If people are subjected to trauma, then counseling can help them,” Ludlow said. “That doesn’t mean that racism isn’t real, but it does mean that the effects of it are traumatic, and we need to acknowledge that more in our society.”
Gordon said she hopes students feel comfortable reaching out to her if they need anything or feel unsafe at Eastern and have connections on campus they can reach out to as well.
“I’m always there for them. I understand why they would be upset and why they would be concerned. I can’t imagine, like, finding something like that or experiencing something like that,” Gordon said. “It’s so disappointing and it’s so horrible, but I just really hope that they find some people that can reach out to. They lean on the people they trusted. I hope that we can all work together and continue to make our campus more welcoming for everyone.”
Shimonde said students can reach out to her and the NAACP for support.
“On behalf of myself, on behalf of the organization, if there are any students who want somebody to talk to or they feel some kind of way and they don’t know where to take that energy or they don’t know what they can do to help, or maybe they just need someone to talk to about what’s going on and get those emotions out, we are here for you,” Shimonde said. “We are here to listen, to talk and we can get you in touch with great resources.”
For those who left the bags on campus, the message is less than supportive.
Hung said those responsible should know their efforts were wasted if they wanted to break down the minority people on campus.
“I think if I could, you know, just give them one message, I think it is that the effort that you’re putting into this is really misplaced because the people that this message is targeting, minorities, everyone who’s been in this country long enough have already survived this, so whatever you’re doing, whatever you think you’re adding to it, it’s not going to break us or make us any less resilient because of this one piece of paper, so you’re doing this for your own benefit,” Hung said.
Ludlow said those who left the bags left her stymied.
“This is going to sound terrible, I know it is: I’m stymied by the laziness of it. Like that poster, first of all, was not good. Any third grader could have made it. They put all these copies together and left a whole bunch of them just in bags laying around. It’s like, come on, do you not even have the courage of your conviction to like do something with it? No. They’re acting in secret,” Ludlow said. “They’re a bunch of lazy cowards. They’re acting in secret. They’re doing messaging that is ugly and hateful, and they know it. And so they just do it as safely and quickly as possible and escaped again. The messaging is horrific. I don’t mean to make light of it at all. They’re cowards on top of it. “
Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]