Student’s social media post referencing KKK sparks online outrage

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This image originated from Harper on Snapchat

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 did not immediately respond to a request for comment and deleted her Facebook account hours after the request, but a family spokesperson said Harper has since left her sorority, Chi Omega, and her family is in communication with the university. The Collegian reached out to Chi Omega officials, but did not receive a response as of Tuesday evening.

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.”

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News and Science Writer for the Collegian. Senior in Food Science with a Minor in Mass Communications from Topeka, Kansas. Graphic and Video Design. I cook … a lot.
  • Sure

    Hide yo kids, hide yo wife, someone made a joke. That means Hitler is back.

    • Teresa Hawkey-Silvey

      That’s where it starts. Why do you approve of the KKK?

      • Stop

        Nobody approves of the KKK, but bullying this girl in quitting school or killing herself isn’t right either.

        -stop virtue signalling

        • Officer Meow Meow

          I wouldn’t bother getting into it with that person. Her comment history is almost exclusively screaming profanities at people and ending arguments with a “f*** off”.

        • Melissa Birdwell

          The real problem is that he black community is being targeted. I don’t care who did it, I’m not going to tear apart their life. The important thing to do is evoke change. START A CHANGE.

          • Here we go again

            the 3% black community at K-state? yeah the other 90% is targeting them. good luck with that.

      • Sure

        Why do YOU approve of the KKK?

  • Kristy Nyp

    How sad for this girl, to be raised to believe that this would be funny. Unfortunately, the mistake she made is seen by everyone and her shame and embarrassment is increased exponentially because of the platform she chose to use to get her “joke” out there. But I do think it’s sad that she left her sorority and college — it seems that she needs the benefit of growth that comes from education and exposure to people whose ideology is different from her own. The institution still has a lot to offer her, so she should be drawn in for increased care and learning, not shunned and sent away, because this is a chance to increase awareness for a young person before the ideas become a danger greater than ideas; isn’t that what education is about? Educating a person who ideas can quickly reach masses of people should be a good thing, so KSU should try to help this mouthpiece learn better ways of thinking so she can throw better things out to the universe when she speaks. And her sorority saw something in her when they brought her in, so she needs them now more than ever, after she has made a mistake in thought that hasn’t yet become an action or violated a specific individual. I hope if she’s not getting help from her sisterhood and her school, she’s getting support somewhere from someone who wants to show her not that it’s bad that she got caught on social media saying bad things, but rather that it’s bad that she thinks the bad things.

    • Melissa Birdwell

      The real problem is that he black community is being targeted. I don’t care who did it, I’m not going to tear apart their life. The important thing to do is evoke change.

  • Officer Meow Meow

    Definitely a joke and not at all comparable to the posters incident.

  • Skeptic

    “From an SGA perspective, it’s very difficult to change the culture of campus. Students of color are scared to walk around this campus”

    This must be a joke… if this student is serious that students are legitimately scared to walk around the campus then why stay at KSU? I’d never stay at a place where I was legitimately frightened to walk.

    • poise

      Well this shows your ignorance and absurd insensitivity. With a noose hanging around campus in broad daylight, you think I am comfy all the time I walk back to my room from the lab when it is midnight or 1am which happens a lot. So, FYI, it is not a joke when someone says some students are not comfortable with walking late at night with the recent events on campus.

      • Here we go again

        Yeah you are so ignorant and insensitive, how could you not remember the one time someone put a noose on campus, we had to shut down class for a week so we could determine a safe space, we determined the safe space was the sewage plant where all these snowflakes can cry

        • poise

          I see you are a just a troll who has nothing sensible to say. Keep trolling.

          • Here we go again

            I plan too, i cant take this “Kstate is racist” bs any longer, the reason people are afraid on campus is because of the conceal carry.

          • Melissa Birdwell

            you’re comment doesn’t say any where in it something otherwise. So you’re not helping your argument in any way.

      • Skeptical

        Hmmm I won’t insult you as you insulted me but my question is, assuming you feel targeted by this situation and the noose incident, why stay? If I feel that unsafe somewhere – legitimately physically unsafe – I don’t stay there. As an example, I would never travel in Dubai because I wouldn’t feel safe there. Your example is somewhat problematic because I know many students of all races who dislike walking late at night on campus. That’s common sense and I don’t see how that is any different with recent events. I don’t see an exodus of minority students from KSU after these incidents, so it leads me to believe that this feeling of being unsafe (linked specifically to these events) is somewhat overstated.

        • poise

          This shows how pathetic you are. Symbolism has a huge effect on one’s psychological well being, whether positive or otherwise. To suggest that I should abandon my education or not voice my concern about a disturbing incident shows how myopic your thinking is. So, after spending years working towards completing my studies, I should have to deal with some low lifers who have nothing better to do. And when I see such despicable people putting threatening signs on campus, I should leave campus? Are you even sane at all? Who cares if you want to go to Dubai or not? I chose to come to this part of Kansas because it is multicultural and welcoming. I have never been robbed on campus before and I have not heard of anyone else saying they have experienced this? How does this have anything to do with robbery? So, if people are putting signs of their intent to commit hate crimes, I should just pack my bad and leave? I should not talk about it? So until some Dylan Roof who has nothing else to live for comes to campus to commit hate crime, I should just shut my mouth? You sir have deep issues and you are a total disgrace.

          • Skeptic

            Again, I won’t insult you as you have insulted me… twice. It’s clear you didn’t read my post and you don’t understand the point I am attempting to make. Rather, you prefer insulting people and linking totally unrelated events to this situation. Pro tip: Rhetorical questions are tiresome. Good luck in your education.

    • Melissa Birdwell

      Youre not helping the situation.

      • Skeptic

        What situation am I supposed to be helping? How is my comment/question hurting “the situation?

        • Melissa Birdwell

          Who cares if they’re scared or if you think this whole thing is a joke. The really problem here is that the black community is being targeted and demeaned. Do you even care about that?

          • Skeptical

            Who said I didn’t care about that? I asked a specific question based on the quote: why do people stay somewhere when they report feeling frightened to walk across campus? People keep stating – in multiple articles – that minority students feel targeted, scared, afraid to walk across campus, etc… so I asked the question. It seems to be common sense that if someone feels so marginalized and so frightened that they would decide to go elsewhere. For example, I would not choose to study in Moscow because I do not feel I would be safe there. So, the logical question I would ask is why, if people feel this frightened, do people stay? Last week, a parent reported that as a result of the Sukkah being destroyed by the wind that her daughter felt unsafe on campus. My question is the same: if you are a parent and your child is terrified, why not enroll at a different school?

            I am not, for a second, suggesting that marginalized students should leave. Quite the opposite. Virtually every statistic available suggests that KSU is a relatively safe place to attend. I am simply trying to understand the mindset of someone who says they are frightened but chooses to stay. I can only assume – based on their actions – that they aren’t nearly as frightened as they suggest.

            Furthermore, how would you suggest I demonstrate I care? By not asking questions? This is a university. Isn’t it supposed to be a place where conversation occurs and where questions are asked? It strikes me as sort of odd that this story and the Sukkah faux crisis has gotten far more attention than the story about across the campus $4m clawbacks. Arguably the clawback will have a far greater impact on students – marginalized or not – than this social media nonsense.

          • Melissa Birdwell

            I attend Cal State Long Beach so I don’t know what the clawbacks are so please enlighten me and others through other sources. Which is possible because if you’re passionate about something then it’ll get attention if you try hard enough just like this article did.

            You’re taking away from the problem though-

            Why does it matter if they’re scared? The real problem here (on this article) is that the black community is being targeted and demeaned.

            My question for you then is why do we spend so much time arguing about tangent topics instead of finding a solution for the problem at hand.

          • Skeptic

            I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you don’t go to KSU. It’s literally not my job to educate you about issues at KSU and it isn’t worth my time to discuss this issue with someone who doesn’t even atten the university and can’t be bothered to read the posts to which you respond. Good day.

    • legit

      This sounds like the sort of person who would prefer if we got scared and left. It takes legitimate courage to fight blind hatred. Don’t leave, stand up, and speak out!

      • Skeptical

        You clearly didn’t read my posts below. I didn’t offer an opinion on if someone should or should not stay. I simply asked a question that no one has answered.

    • Scott Gardner

      That quote is indeed a joke. I graduated in 1989 from K-State and students of color were not afraid to walk around campus then, and they aren’t now. Statements like this do nothing but stir the pot.

    • Because they have every right to attend school without fear of coward racist targeting them. I would stay there and drive the racist away.

      • Skeptical

        I’m a little lost. Who exactly targeted someone?

        • Not very good at reading comprehension huh? I clearly said COWARDLY RACIST who hide behind jokes and “I didn’t mean to offend anyone” when they are caught. If YOU are afraid you wouldn’t attend the school by running they win.

  • Here we go again

    Im offended that i wasn’t invited to join the Cstate cool cids club, sorry the Kstate kool cids club, no the Cstate kool kids club, OUTLAW WHITE PONCHOS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Melissa Birdwell

      You’re not helping the situation.

  • Melissa Birdwell

    What does “[sic]” mean?

    • Rafael Garcia

      Hi Melissa, the use of the [sic] denotes that the quote is printed without any changes to the source material. In this case, it means that any misspellings in the original quote were preserved.

  • Melissa Birdwell

    It shouldn’t take more than a day for the president of your school to send out a message like this:

    Dear Campus Community,
    This week hateful graffiti targeting our Black community was discovered and reported to the University Police Department. Police documented the incident and the graffiti was removed. Of course, the emotional threat remains.
    As I have shared with you before, I vigorously condemn messages that demean any group. In this case, our Black students and organizations—as well as our entire community—can be assured that when we discover the source of this or any other vitriolic graffiti, we will remove it immediately and continue to investigate perpetrators.
    We are One Beach. Our strength is in true partnership and mutual concern for every member of our community. No one and no group, insider or outsider, will succeed in undermining our journey toward Inclusive Excellence.
    Go Beach!

    Jane Close Conoley, Ph.D.

    This is an email from my president the day of a the event. What are they waiting for? Preach for what should be already be known.

    • Here we go again

      Why would they send out an email showing that the blacks on campus are race-baiting?

  • Ellie Mowery

    This is too stupid to even deserve an answer! Whatever happened to raincoat attire on a rainy day at a football game!? Not okay anymore. God help this nation!!!