Twitter accounts cause conflict at University

Screen shot 2013-02-14 at 10.41.40 PMSeveral anonymous Twitter accounts have caused a recent stir among students and administrators after some said the posts are racist and humiliating.

Accounts such as @MurrayAsian, @MSUblackpeople and @MSUpartygirl are just a few of the Twitter handles anonymously tweeting discriminatory comments and relating them to the University.

Some tweets from @MurrayAsian mocked clothing or students’ actions in public places such as the Wellness Center or Winslow Dining Hall.

Approximately 15 international students met with administrators in Woods Hall Monday to figure out how to address the issues related to the discrimination.

Students who attended the meeting did not want to be named for fear of retaliation, but several said they wanted an apology from those responsible for the account or accounts.

Luis Canales, director of the Institute for International Studies, spoke to the group and said his organization is working hard to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for international students.

“Sites like (these) are not making our Asian students feel welcomed or proud to be members of this learning community,” Canales said. “Word of mouth is powerful, and if students do not feel welcomed and share those feelings with other prospective students, it is entirely possible that they will not want to come to Murray.”

Bill McKibben, associate director of International Studies, said he found the Twitter accounts disturbing.

He told the students he hoped they could take their positive experiences and outweigh this negative one.

“(Those sites) do not reflect the majority of the people here at Murray State,” McKibben said. “In every country you have some good people and you have some bad people; they’re everywhere.”

On Monday afternoon, the University posted a Facebook status stating the University does not condone any actions that are discriminatory, insensitive or offensive.

The message also stated the Twitter handles @MurrayAsian and @MSUblackpeople are not University accounts and do not represent the values and core mission of the school.

While some of the accounts have been deleted, such as @MurrayAsian and @msubenchpreacher, several still remain open on Twitter, despite the negative attention.

The account @MurrayAsian was on the web for almost a year before its removal Monday.

Catherine Sivills, assistant vice president of University Communications, said if the University finds anonymous accounts, they will sometimes follow them to keep an eye on (them) and make sure they are not misrepresenting the University in an offensive way.

“We own the words Murray State,” Sivills said. “We’re registered with the state and anybody who uses those names in something that represents the University, they need to have permission to use it. You own the rights to your name and your logos, so on social media, when people pretend they are representing something about your University, that’s a breach of logo and trademark.”

She said they are not paying for a licensing fee and that is like stealing the name of Murray State.

She said people have the right to their own opinions and the right to create any Twitter account, but the University does not want them using the Murray State name.

She said Murray State’s campus has zero tolerance for hate speech.

“@MurrayAsian was making fun of the students who were maybe a little different than the traditional students here from Kentucky,” Sivills said. “It was a bully mentality.”

She said she feels like the students do not realize when they post things to the Internet they stay there forever.

“Even if you did it with no intention of hurting anyone, it makes everyone take a step back and realize cyber-bullying is still very real,” Sivills said. “College-aged kids should know better.”

Student Government Association President Jeremiah Johnson said with people using fake emails like ones created by Google, there really is not a way to track who is behind the offensive accounts.

“It is a problem, and I am not really sure what to do to stop it, or even where our jurisdiction as a University lies in patrolling Twitter due to the freedom of speech.”

So far, Johnson has found 26 parody accounts relating to the University.

He said there were others that targeted the city more specifically.

One student, Daneto Matally, sophomore from Owensboro, Ky., said via email the anonymous accounts should be shut down due to the bad reputation they are giving Murray State.

While the sites have not affected her personally, she said they are outrageous and disgusting. Matally, who is black, is especially concerned with accounts such as @MSUblackpeople.

“I don’t understand how anyone can find humor in these anonymous accounts targeted toward specific races, gender and religion,” Matally said. “Sadly, it goes farther than the accounts. Everyday I hear racist remarks concerning black, Asian and Arab students. Why is this? Aren’t we all Racers?”

She said if someone is going to have freedom of speech, they should own up to what they are saying on social media.

“Do not hide behind anonymous accounts and target others,” Matally said. “There is only one word to describe those who feel the need to create offensive accounts: coward.”

Story by Meghann Anderson, News Editor.