At a time when our community is facing social, financial, and emotional challenges primarily due to the novel coronavirus, we need to band together to offer support and encouragement to one another.
In the midst of these challenges, I was notified of negative and racially-charged portrayals of Lincoln College students being shared on local Facebook profiles. Several of the comments included threats of violence against students and generally implicit racism.
Ironically, these negative, racist comments came on the same day that our student athletes were selected by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) as Champions of Character Silver Award Winners for volunteer contributions to the community over the past year.
Unfortunately, the bigoted behavior has not been limited to online activities. Our students have also had to endure vehicles displaying confederate flags driving through campus and incidents of shouting insults and threats. This behavior would be appalling in any community, but it is incomprehensible how anyone living in a city named for Abraham Lincoln could display flags that pay tribute to those who tried to destroy our nation.
I know that the social media comments represent just a tiny handful of individuals and are not representative of the overall Lincoln community. Unfortunately, for students who are young and living away from home for the first time in their lives, a few comments can feel as though the entire community is against them and wants them to feel unwelcome.
Lincoln College brings together students of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives which allows us to live and learn together. Our diverse student body enables us to enrich our campus and the Logan County community.
Lincoln College has a $53 million annual economic impact on Lincoln and Logan County. All businesses and residents of the community benefit either directly or indirectly from that investment. The students that are the target of these attacks are the source of that economic impact. Those who attack our students are, in a very literal sense, biting the hands that feed them.
Our students have only a few short years in our community. But, for the rest of their lives, as they pursue careers, build businesses, make investment decisions, and influence others, they will carry with them the impressions of the community they develop during these years. Lincoln and Logan County cannot afford to let a tiny group of hate-filled individuals soil its reputation for decades to come.
Please show kindness and patience to our Lincoln College students, as well as the entire community.
David M. Gerlach, Ph.D.