Mercer students have reacted to an anonymous flyer, which stated opinions about having white history months and organizations on campus. The flyer was posted throughout various residence halls and academic buildings.
The flyer expressed that “it is just as fair to have White History Month/s as it is to have Black History Month/s.” In addition, the flyer suggested the need of white organizations on campus to equalize students since “there are African American Societies, Black Student Organizations, and Indian Heritage Associations.”
The anonymous flyer also touched on politics, as its creator expressed that “the voting ballot of next month might as well say ‘black’ and ‘white.’”
The flyer was removed from the locations the next morning, Oct. 16. When asked whether or not Resident Assistants (RAs) were instructed to do anything with the flyer, Gary Wall, senior RA, said they “weren’t instructed on anything due to the timely effort that it was taken down. It is the official policy of the RAs to not post anything without the approval of Residence Life.”
On the morning of Oct. 16, Mercer University President William Underwood addressed the student body through a campus-wide email.
“As a community committed to intellectual freedom, we seek to enrich the mind and spirit by promoting and facilitating an open and rigorous search for understanding,” said Underwood. “Thoughtful people of good will frequently disagree on how best to move beyond centuries of legal, institutional, and cultural racism in America. In this community, these disagreements should be expressed through respectful dialogue. We should always endeavor to rise above the thoughtless rancor that characterizes so much of our public dialogue today.”
The creator of the flyer is currently unknown. All flyers and posters are required to be approved by Mercer’s Student Life Department prior to being displayed, but these flyers were posted without the approval of the university.
“Any kind of discipline will be up to the Student Life Department,” said Larry Brumley, Senior Vice President for Marketing Communications and Chief of Staff.
“At this point, the president is really wanting everyone to move on. He’s addressed it and has outlined in his email his expectations on how we have discussions about these issues,” said Brumley.
Many students have expressed their views on the flyer through social media outlets and in class discussions.
“Initially when I saw this flyer, I was shocked,” explained Erikka Ennis, a current student. “I believe that people are allowed to express how they feel about the situation, but it is the way that you go about it. Minority groups and clubs that are created on campus are to help people feel comfortable and to let them know that there are people who they can relate to. It’s not meant to exclude anyone.”
Another current student, Felicia Fowler said, “My first reaction was anger, but as conversations continued I became deeply saddened at the intentional disrespect towards the organizations that were mentioned in the flyer and everything they stand for, which is to invite everyone to learn about their organizations and cultures. Mercer does try its best to promote diversity and unity, but it is up to the individuals and students to make a change and respect each other.”
Dr. Cynthia Gottshall, Journalism and Media Studies Department Chair, led a class discussion in her Race, Gender and Media class. The students decided to host a meeting held at the Jesse Mercer statue on campus the night of Oct. 16. Noah Maier, a senior currently in Dr. Gottshall’s class, said that the event was not a protest but an outpouring of love to the people who were affected negatively by the flyer. “We wanted to have some sort of response,” said Maier.
On Oct. 17, an email was sent to a number of Mercer faculty and staff from “Michael C” asking the employees “to please reverse the anti-white positions adopted by Mercer University.” The email states that “every other racial and cultural group is recognized on campus and is encouraged to organize. Yet, anything pro-white on Mercer’s campus is denounced.”
No further action has been taken regarding the posted flyers. Doug Pearson, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, said “Mercer has never condoned anonymous mass postings in the residence halls, regardless of the topic and point of view put forth.”
Pearson said, “Some of the issues raised in the flyer are controversial, but colleges and universities should not seek to eliminate debate on those issues as much as to create forums in which civil and intelligent conversation can take place. Many such forums have been provided in the past, including one within the last month that specifically addressed many of the issues raised in the flyer.”
Members of Student Government Association, National Panhellenic Council, and the members of Dr. Gotshall’s class have already met with Pearson and plan on meeting again to discuss the next steps for Mercer’s campus.
“The students shared with me that they did not want this flyer to represent the wider view of the student body or this institution, and hosted an event calling for calm discussion and respect. I wholly support that point of view,” said Pearson.