With photos from Homecoming flooding social media, one on Instagram stood out for its controversial messaging.
This photo shows four Western students posing in front of a banner with the phrase “Western Lives Matters” written with purple spray paint.
The post started gathering national media attention after a VICE article was recently published calling the post the result of "bad" and "ignorant" decisions in attempting to parody the "Black Lives Matter" movement.
The writer goes on to outline the issues with the apparent racist messaging and criticizes the students who created the banner and those who stood by and supported it. The article also brought up the recent incident where, “no means yes and yes means anal” was chalked on a window in a predominantly student neighbourhood close to Western's campus.
Western responded to the post by issuing media releases and posting on their social media condemning the "racist signage."
"Senior administration wants to assure the entire Western community that these types of transgressions are hurtful, disrespectful and demeaning. They do, however, provide an opportunity for further conversations with campus leaders and community partners," the media release read.
Jana Luker, associate vice-president student experience, spoke out about the incident.
“To take something that is generally meant to spotlight this racial injustice that we see is quite offensive and this is not in keeping with the values we have at Western at all,” Luker said.
In response to the incident, the University Students' Council posted a video. In the video, USC president Eddy Avila calls out the racist messaging of the banner.
When asked if the video was published in response to the VICE article, Avila acknowledged that although the video was already in the works before the article was published, it does address many of the issues it brought up.
Emily Ross, USC communications officer, said the USC wanted to reach out to the students and tell them to call out this behaviour.
“I think the fact that this banner was up for so long and nobody took it down, I don’t know if anybody said anything. So I think people are often afraid to call out their friends in social situations to say something,” said Ross.
“I think if I could sort of do a call to action for students because that's what I think should be being done. If you see a microaggression, if you see something that you think isn’t right, say something.”
Luker noted that in regards to consequences, since it happened off-campus it is out of the administration’s hands. She said that London Police Service have been notified and who are looking into the incident.
Western's student code of conduct, however, still applies in the situation.
According to Western's media relations, "The code of student conduct at Western covers both on and off campus conduct and can be used when behaviour is excessive, frightening or causes a personal safety concern. Discipline ranges from a warning to expulsion. The main purpose of such discipline is to address negative behaviour, promote a safe and harmonious environment and to return students to the focus of their studies."
Social media response to Western's reaction
Social media has been inundated with people both commending and criticizing Western's reaction to the social media post and the banner. Here some of the tweets addressing the incident.
1) First,THANK YOU to @westernu for its speedy and unambiguous response to the recent deplorable Western Lives Matter banner incident +— Mark McDayter (@MarkMcDayter) October 5, 2016
@westernu This is an utterly disgraceful statement. Please end your persecution of your own students. They've done nothing wrong.— Blair Kelly (@superlomz) October 5, 2016