A Kansas State University student, who is a member of K-State’s Family of the Year, is receiving backlash on social media over a Snapchat photo taken at Saturday’s football game.
The photo depicts two people in white ponchos with the hoods pulled over their heads, alongside a caption that reads “Newest members of the Kstate [sic] Kool Kids.”
Several Twitter and Facebook users shared the picture Tuesday, condemning the post as racist. The Snapchat photo in question was taken by Sarah Harper, freshman in mass communications, during a period of rain delays and thunderstorms.
Harper is part of the Robinson family, who was recognized as the university’s 2017 Family of the Year Saturday, the same day the Snapchat photo was posted. The two individuals in the photo are related to the Robinson family, but are not K-State students, the spokesperson said.
The Family of the Year is selected by the Chimes Junior Honorary Society. It is not a part of the university’s Parents and Family Association, according to Mindy Weixelman, director of Parent and Family Relations.
When asked for comment, Kiley Moody, the society’s advisor, transferred the request to Jeffery Morris, vice president for communications and marketing for K-State, who provided a link to the Family of the Year webpage on the K-State website. Much of the Chimes Junior Honorary Society’s webpage has not been updated since 2015.
Craig Robinson, family member and lawyer acting as the family’s spokesperson, said Harper’s actions are not representative of the family and that she was “goofing around.”
“It is unfortunate, and it was never the intent of the participants in the photo,” Robinson said.
Robinson said Harper was “distraught” and wanted to quit school after receiving backlash on social media.
Sarah Mullin, freshman in psychology, sent a message to Sarah Harper Tuesday in a GroupMe chat of approximately 300 freshmen K-Staters. Mullin said her goal was to “make a point,” as she does not appreciate racism on campus.
“I hope that this is a message that no one thinks is funny or a joke,” Mullin said.
Mullin provided the Collegian with Harper’s responses to her messages.
“It was a mistake,” Harper wrote. “I didn’t think about who might see this and take offense, I was being stupid.”
Ryan Kelly, student senator and sophomore in civil engineering and communications studies, said the Snapchat post and other incidents, such as the homophobic slur and white nationalist posters found on campus, affect student government and the student body.
“From an SGA perspective, it’s very difficult to change the culture of campus. Students of color are scared to walk around this campus,” Kelly said.
Kelly also said more proactive measures are needed from the university in response to incidents related to racism and xenophobia.
“A statement doesn’t do justice,” Kelly said. “We can’t just say something and expect all of the students that oppressed by these acts are going to feel better.”
While he said he wants a stronger response from the university, Kelly said he is “frustrated” with social media backlash from students creating a public display with significant impact on Harper’s life.
The university gave the Collegian a statement through the Division of News and Communications Services, reading:
“Individuals posting through their private social media accounts do not represent or speak on behalf of the university. Our Principles of Community clearly articulate our shared values. Kansas State University is gathering facts about a post on social media that has generated significant comment and concern about racism. Once the facts have been gathered, the university will respond as appropriate.”