University launches ‘Not in Our Town’ Campaign

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President Mary Ellen Mazey gives the opening statement during the Not In Our Town event.

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In response to recent racially charged tweets from students, the University hosted an event in Olscamp Hall on Wednesday night.

More than 200 people attended the Not in Our Town Campaign event that the University launched in collaboration with the City of Bowling Green. The campaign aims to celebrate diversity while also reaffirming the University and Bowling Green’s commitments to social justice, equity and inclusion, according to a flier from the event.

In attendance were campus and community leaders such as University President Mary Ellen Mazey and Bowling Green Mayor Richard Edwards.

“What we need to have over time is more and more of things like this,” Mazey said. “There’s still more work for us all to do on this.”

The event allowed Mazey, Edwards, Black Student Union President Tiffany Smith and Vision President Liz Grabski to speak about their experiences with inclusion and diversity. Vision is a student organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students on campus while Black Student Union is an organization for students of African-American descent.

“Everything turned out so well tonight,” Grabski said. “It’s just awesome to see so many people turn out and leave here so pumped.”

Along with other students, faculty and community members, Grabski read part of a pledge during the event to help provide a “safe and tolerant” atmosphere in Bowling Green. During the event, Grabski and Smith also asked everyone in attendance to sign a copy of the pledge and submit it to the Not in Our Town Campaign.

“This is a grassroots effort and our hope was for it to infect people here so that it can really catch fire in the community,” Smith said.

In order to encourage people to participate past the campaign’s kick-off, attendees also got the chance to watch a short PBS documentary about universities where hate crimes had occurred.

“We’ve got to make sure this doesn’t die,” Smith said. “This has taken a lot of late nights but I’m really proud of what we’ve done so far.”

Although Smith is graduating in May, she will return to the University to help educate new students through the Not in Out Town Campaign.

Smith was one of the first people to speak out about the racially charged tweets that came to the attention of University administrators April 5. Mazey responded to the tweets the same day in a letter to students and faculty.

“All across campus, we work hard to uphold the core values of the university, including respect for one another,” Mazey said in the letter. “The actions of the students involved is not condoned, nor acceptable.”

To avoid problems similar to the racially charged tweets, the Not in Our Town Campaign is something that needs to continue growing among students and faculty this summer and next fall, Mazey said.

“This is very much a grassroots effort and it needs to happen through individuals coming together to help other people understand,” she said.

Despite the racial tweets, Mazey said she isn’t worried about the University football team travelling to Mississippi, which just became the last state to abolish slavery, to play a game next fall.

“The south has been a little slower to change and other places have been too,” Mazey said. “It’s a shame that we still have to have these discussions in 2013.”