Racial Harassment Prompts Whiteboard Ban. Did MSU Go Too Far, Or Not Far Enough?

Administrators at Michigan State University have banned the use of whiteboards on dorm room doors beginning next fall. This decision follows upon “several” incidents in which racist, sexist, or otherwise objectionable messages have been written on students’ whiteboards.

According to Kat Cooper, director of university residential services communications, speaking to the Detroit News, “I know that when I was in school, whiteboards were an essential form of communication with other students. It used to be that their (appropriate) usage outweighed their abuse, and that’s just not the case anymore.”

Praise from the Lansing NAACP

Some in the community are celebrating the decision, including the Lansing chapter of the NAACP, which posted the following on their Facebook page:

We had an incident at MSU where a young African-American honors student had ‘The N Word’ written on her dorm room whiteboard. It’s been a while but MSU Police have informed us that ALL dormitory white boards will be removed asap. Victory!!!

Others, however, as less happy with the new policy.

Students Ask: Does Ban Really Address Racial Bias?

Some, such as MSU junior Yamani Vinson, believe that the new policy does not do enough to address racial bias on campus. According to the Detroit Free Press,

Vinson, a member of MSU’s Black Student Alliance, believes additional sensitivity and cultural training is a more effective way of addressing harassment and bias.

“It’s easy to take away whiteboards,” she said. “Actually working towards graduating students who understand the importance of diversity is the only way we can effectively address bias.”

Other students object to the policy for other reasons. According to the Detroit News,

Some students said banning whiteboards from doors is unnecessary.

“People are going to say things no matter what, whether it’s to their faces or on a whiteboard, it’s just something you can’t always control,” said Sofia Sokansanj, a university freshman.

She added that the boards typically are viewed as a way to encourage others and bring lightheartedness to the dorm.

And Inside Higher Ed adds this detail:

On the Lansing NAACP website, one person commented, “If someone writes on the door, will they remove everyone’s dorm room door?” Another wrote, “How is this a victory when every dorm resident will be punished because of one racist idiot? What does this accomplish exactly? It seems to me you’re giving more power to the racist. Should we have limited skyscrapers to only 10 stories after 9/11 in an effort to end terrorism? Help me to understand the reasoning and logic.”

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