August 23, 2011

WKU student punished for planking: questioning authority on college campuses

By: Anna Meany
[email protected]

Formally charged with planking, the Facebook-popular act of lying flat on any surface, incoming freshman Tyler Webster was briefly banned from the campus of Western Kentucky University, which he plans to attend this fall. If the ban had lasted much longer, Webster could not have attended the school.  A front-page story, published on Aug. 8 in the Daily News, showed the future student and his friend planking on the statue of Henry Hardin Cherry on WKU’s campus. Catching the attention of WKU President Gary Ransdell and the Judicial Affairs board, Webster received a letter called a “trespass order.”
My first point about this unfitting discipline is that nothing criminal occurred. He did not deface the statue, humiliate WKU or cause harm to any student. The damage that Webster caused is nonexistent.  Also, it is reflection of WKU’s attitude. It is not so much the forbidden planking as much as the apparent message that WKU does not allow much freedom on their campus. The story was highly publicized due to its shock factor. Attention towards this includes a Facebook page protesting the ban and news coverage in the Daily News, WKU Herald and the Associated Press.  For President Ransdell to say that the, ban was “an overreaction” is an understatement.
In a recent article in the WKU Herald, Ransdell called the planking “dangerous” and explained that the student “put in jeopardy some very expensive art on our campus”.  His support of Michael Crowe, the director of Judicial Affairs, as well as the decision continues even after the lift of the ban.Firstly, you do not see every person caught drinking in their dorm being expelled from WKU.  Secondly, the statue is subject to rain and vandalism. If a couple of kids horsing around cause destructive damage to the statue, it cannot withstand much. I suppose the biggest problem I have with the banning of student over planking is that it seriously infringes on students’ freedom.
I’m not trying to turn this into an intense civil rights case, but doesn’t restricting someone from getting an education for a minor offense seem a little extreme?
I question the intent of the punishment. Once again, I understand the legitimate concerns of WKU. I feel that it was offensive to the president and the board of Judicial Affairs, but their issues were not handled in a professional or appropriate way. The board shouldn’t have acted so hastily on emotions built on anger.

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