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Election turmoil sparks WVU president’s response

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — “The only thing we will not tolerate is intolerance.”

That was the key part of a letter WVU President E. Gordon Gee wrote Thursday in response to two days of heated reactions to the election.

“Following a hard-fought election, we all have questions, concerns and hopes. Emotions are running high on our campus, as they are throughout the country. Like you, I have few answers about what the future holds for our nation. But I am confident about what it holds for West Virginia University, where our shared values must outweigh our differences.”

Gee took the unusual step of writing a letter to the WVU community after social media and protests erupted on campus following the results of Tuesday’s election.

After The DA posted a video of an anti-Trump march on Wednesday night, responses from students and community members flooded in, saying things like “B*tches that are used to getting things their way,” and “What happened with the U.S.” among dozens of others.

Aly Turner, a student from Maryland, lead the march from South High Street to Sunnyside. She organized the protest because she wanted to “start affirming humanity in the town.”

The group of more than 30 participants gathered, formed a circle and began speaking one at a time, voicing their concerns over the meaning of Trump’s election.

The group interlocked arms and began the march. They alternated between chants, including: “We have voices, give us choices” and “The people, united, we’ll never be divided/defeated.”

“Everyone in attendance was there simply because we felt the electorate did not speak for us,” said Katie Adase, a participant in the march. “It was not about socialism or democrats or anarchy, gay rights, women’s rights, or anything specific, just people who felt their voices were not heard during this election.”

In direct response to Trump, the protesters yelled “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!” and “f*ck Trump!

When the march turned toward Fraternity Row, shouts of “f*ck women’s rights” and epithets like “faggot” were yelled in response to the group.

Emotions ran high.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, Turner said within the past couple of days, people have been increasingly using hateful slurs towards her, like “f*ggot” and “p*ssy licker.”

She said people have joked about their excitement for “less women’s rights” and how women will “finally find ‘their’ place in ‘white America’ aka below men and subservient.”

“I’m trying to mobilize a movement about affirming humanity,” Turner said. “People that participated (in the march) received the message that their voices are not silenced. People realized that they can articulate the environment they expect to have, to feel safe and respected in the community.”

In response to the sentiments around campus, the University is encouraging dialogue among students.

“Any of these kinds of negative engagements are not positive,” said David Fryson, vice president of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “There is a way to express ourselves.”

Fryson said WVU should be seen as a model of civility.

 “We have to change the nature of the conversation to how we can move forward as a country,” he said. “Even in our disagreements, we can have positive dialogue.”

Dean of Students Corey Farris said he heard both sides of the protest while in his office.

“I certainly support everyone’s right to express their opinion, but I want people to do it in a peaceful and respectful way,” he said. “I’m not one who wants to suppress people’s freedom of expression. I support all sides of it as long as it is respectful.”

The University believes community members should “embrace one another and stand for unity and inclusion.”

“We have to stand up against any kind of violence or threats or intimidation because that is also part of protecting speech,” said WVU Provost Joyce McConnell.

Gee tweeted on Wednesday: “As our nation moves forward, remember to be kind and listen to each other. Move toward understanding and respect the rights of every person.”

At 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14, the Student Government Association will host a Unity Circle in Woodburn Circle.

Daniel Blair contributed to this story.

 See more from The Daily Athenaeum. 

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