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‘Whee United’ WCU Students March Against Racism

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University
Campus police estimate nearly 400 people including many students turned out for the Whee United March.

Nearly 400 people marched on the campus of Western Carolina University Wednesday afternoon in response to racist videos featuring students that were posted to social media last weekend.  Those students are no longer enrolled at Western Carolina and will not return. 

In a sea of purple face masks, students gathered near the fountain on campus for the Whee United March – a play on the campus location in Cullowhee.

“Whee Want Change, Whee Want Change,” the crowd chanted.  

Senior Donnavan Spencer is a criminal justice major and a starting running back for the Catamounts football team.  He was one of the event’s organizers. Spencer thanked university leadership for Tuesday night’s announcement that all five student in the videos were expelled.

“That made this movement even more powerful that we stood up for something and we got justice. But like I’ve told everybody today this doesn’t stop this is just the beginning. That we don’t want this to be a moment thing, we want this to remain a movement,” says Spencer.  

The Catamounts Football team suspended activities on Monday to “focus on creating change on campus.” Head Coach Mark Speir says it was important for him to support the team and their involvement in racial justice on campus.

“What they are doing is showing their hearts and this whole issue of racism is something that has to be addressed,” says Speir. The Southern Conference is currently suspended until spring 2021 semester. The Catamounts currently have two games scheduled in November.

Chancellor Kelli Brown said she was blown away by the turn out at the event.

“We do need to speak up when we hear racism,” says Brown. "Don't let people get away with it." 

Yes ma’am,” says someone in the crowd.

“That’s how we will make change,” adds Brown.

Black Student Union President Brittney Windham says more than 10 different organizations on campus came together for this event. Now those same organizations are asking for the university to create an anti-racism policy.

“We know what happens when you commit plagiarism, you’re gone, you’re done. But when it comes to racism, discrimination, and bigotry it’s unclear. There should be no gray area. It should be zero tolerance. Period,” says Windham.  Students passed out the link to an online petition in support of the policy during the event. 

Throughout the march, students were encouraged to socially distance. Western Carolina is still holding some in-person classes. Here's the current COVID-19 count at the university.

A previous version of this story stated that the students were expelled. Those students are no longer enrolled at Western Carolina and will not return. WCU is legally bound as a public university in disclosure of information about the incidents. 

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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