Michigan State University plans to ban whiteboards on dormitory doors for fall of 2017. This comes after a long line of complaints of the boards being used to bully students with racist and inappropriate remarks.
Typically, students use whiteboards for innocent entertainment and communication. Some students put posters, pictures, and other decorations on their doors, as well. Sophomore Jackson Storer explained that he typically uses his whiteboard for, “quizzes, polls and fun facts.” Storer believes that,“whiteboards are a great way to communicate between students.” Some students use whiteboards in a more menacing fashion.
Director of University Residential Services Communications Kat Cooper told The Detroit News that, “In any given month, there are several incidents like this. There was no one incident that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Other universities have had similar issues. In February, a Jewish student at the University of Minnesota found an anti-Semitic message written on his dorm whiteboard accompanied with a drawing of a concentration camp.
Some find the ban necessary to curb hateful speech. The goal is to make students feel safer from bullies and threats. Others argue that hateful messages can be sent in many forms and banning the whiteboards will not fix the problems. “People are still going to say racial slurs. People are still going to bully kids. A whiteboard is just a medium for them to do it,” said sophomore Travis Ritchie.
Rather than banning forms of communication, some students have said the university should be working on changing the mindsets of the students by encouraging them to embrace diversity and understand the effects of their actions.
Junior Kade Katrak said the university, “should try to improve the general atmosphere regarding race.” He proposed mandatory diversity training similar to the mandatory sexual assault training that students complete freshman year. Though news outlets such as FOX and the State News have mentioned possible violations of the First Amendment with the ban, the university is not aiming to stop communication among students. Rather, the university is encouraging the use of more modern forms of communication between friends, making anonymous hate less likely to be circulated. Guidelines for the ban have yet to be released by the university. It is still unclear if the ban will extend to blackboards and other forms of door decorations.