Community members from Eastern, Charleston petition against racist posters

Corryn Brock, News Editor

A petition was started by an Eastern student demanding the university to take more action regarding the recent white power propaganda found on campus.

As of Thursday night, the petition had reached 1,300 online signatures.

The petition was started by junior sociology major Siobhan Doherty Wednesday night following more propaganda being found at Eastern and the surrounding community that read “Black LIES Matter … F*** BLACK HISTORY MONTH” with images of black people, one such being a photograph of Martin Luther King Jr., once again in bags with rocks.

These messages have been appearing more on college campus with the Anti-Defamation League finding a 160 percent increase of the propaganda being found in the Fall 2019 semester.

Following the first bags being found last Thursday, many students expressed fear, anger and confusion at the situation, and some said they felt the statement sent out by Eastern President David Glassman was not sufficient.

The opening sentence in the petition highlights the individuals who signed the petition’s belief that Eastern’s response was not enough by saying, “We the undersigned believe that Eastern Illinois University’s lack of action regarding the recent but not new incidents of hate speech being spread on and off-campus is not only insulting to minority students and community members but embarrassing for a university that consistently claims diversity and safety for its students.”

The petition ended by calling for more action in saying “… if the university continues to be willfully ignorant and ignore that people on their campus do not feel safe and that their lack of action is contributing to that, then conditions will get worse. Historically speaking, these things just don’t go away. And we demand action.”

David Goldenberg, Midwest regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said Eastern was taking a step in the right direction by issuing a statement.

“Really what it is we look to administration and to student leaders to say ‘we’re going to have a campus of inclusion where we celebrate diversity and we’re going to reject this type of hate because it has no place here,’” Goldenberg said.

Doherty said she started the petition because while she recognized Eastern was responding to the messages, she felt they were not making a strong enough statement.

“Not enough has been done and I’m afraid it’s going to fade into the background, I suppose,” Doherty said. “I thought it would be good to collect my thoughts and the thoughts over everybody I’ve spoken with about it and post it.”

Glassman said he plans to take more action on the matter.

“We do pride ourselves on being a safe campus and a campus that supports our students; we find these fliers completely offensive. We condemn them to the strongest degree and relative to action we have our individuals at the University Police Department and the Charleston Police Department trying to identify who’s perpetrating these throwing of messages on our campus there is no question that it is totally against our mission and values of this campus,” Glassman said. “Hate has no home here.”

Doherty said another reason she decided to make the petition is because of her privilege.

“I am white and if this does end up being something more than some asshole deciding to spread these messages I would rather be the target since my name is on it than someone who is a person of color be the target for these kinds of things if someone does decide to retaliate,” Doherty said. “White people be loud. Use your privilege, use your voices. Don’t be complacent in letting these things happen.”

She said she hopes the petition will leave an impact.

“Ideally I would like to make racists afraid again. I would like to make it more clear that there is really no place for that at EIU,” Doherty said.

Doherty added that she found the messages on the fliers disturbing.

“It’s unsettling to find those things on your car and to be acutely aware that those things are happening even if you know always that those ideas are out there,” Doherty said. “I don’t think they deserve to be heard, especially on this campus.”

Kenya Coleman, a senior biology major, said she signed the petition because of her race.

“I signed the petition because I’m black. If it’s directed at one black person it’s directed at all black people and I know that the petition isn’t going to get the response that we want but it just shows to other people our seriousness behind it and how offensive it is,” Coleman said.

Coleman said the current incident reminds her of the Black Lives Matter petition that was started last spring.

“It reminded me that I already went through this, like what I did last year was pointless,” Coleman said. “We keep having to sign petitions or have articles talking about how we feel but where do we go from there?”

Coleman said she felt that Glassman was doing the best he could in a rocky situation.

“I can’t say he isn’t providing that comfort to the black students on this campus but there’s not much he can do, he’s only one person,” Coleman said.

Marcus Powell, Resident Hall Association vice president of community engagement and student senator, said he signed the petition to make his voice heard and hopes others use it to do the same.

“I think the petition is important because it lets people know that we have a chance to be heard,” Powell said. “The reason I think others should sign it is because it gives them a chance to be heard along with other students.”

Powell said he hopes the university finds a solution that will make students feel secure at Eastern.

Ty Patterson, a senior theatre major, said he believes the university needs to brand itself as an institution that does not accept hate speech.

“I feel like making like a public statement is not really enough,” Patterson said. “I feel like there needs to be a showing that EIU you will use its platform for good and  simply apologizing and saying ‘oops sorry this happened’ isn’t really a solution to the problem it only increases our outrage.”

He said he feels the university shouldn’t only speak on accepting students when situtions like the fliers arise.

“You can’t just say you’re an ally when something bad happens,” Patterson said. “It’s just not really proving anything you know and that’s why nothing will change because people sweep it under the rug.”

Glassman said he understands the students concerns and wants to do better reacting to the situation in the future.

“Something that I like to say a lot is we talk about ‘we are all in for our students,’ and I want our students to know that we are all in for all of our students, and it appears that obviously and unquestionably with 900 signatures, they believe many of our students believe that I’m not doing enough action, and so I want to work with our RSOs, I want to work with the other members of our African-American community, both in Charleston as well as on campus, as well as all members of diverse organizations and meet together. Let’s find out what action we need to take as a group, as a unified group, and move forward with it,” Glassman said.

Glassman said he spoke to the president of the Black Student Union and plans to work with him on communicating and collaborating to do “everything in (his) power” to work with BSU to fight the spread of hateful messages on campus.

He said he wants students to feel safe at Eastern.

“I do stand for our students, and I understand their frustration,” Glassman said. “I’m frustrated, too, because this is just not us, so we’re going to work fervently to support our students and certainly to make them safe, but relative to action, I will step up the action.”

Glassman added he wants students to feel like they belong at Eastern and are welcomed here, calling Eastern a “community of unity.”

He said as of Thursday the university is working with the city of Charleston to put an end to the hateful messages and make students feel safe and welcome at Eastern.

Some unknown individuals have taken to leaving their own fliers around campus with messages to uplift and support the black community at Eastern with messages like, “we cherish our black students,” “black women matter” and “white supremacy will not be tolerated here; we will fight back.”

Some members of Eastern’s campus had messages they wanted those responsible for propaganda to know.

• “You’re racist, grow up. It’s 2020. Just stop it, it’s just ridiculous … we’re not going anywhere,” Coleman said. “If you have to go the means of waking up early to make fliers, then why can’t you just go in the middle of campus and say eff black people if you’re that bold?”

• “F*** you. They should be aware they will find no support on this campus and that if they do, support will be stamped out immediately or as soon as possible by the majority of people on this campus,” Doherty said.

• “I would say that hate has no home on our campus. We are not interested in your propaganda and untruths; we are a community that believes in diversity and inclusion, and we are a model of it,” Glassman said. “We’re doing better each and every day; take your stuff somewhere else.”

• “I really hope that they learn how to make friends and treat people with kindness and not spend their time printing out pictures of swastikas and putting them in baggies and throwing them at cars,” Patterson said. “Give up this white power s***.”

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].