Social media helps VC beat WBC, keep up momentum

One week from today, the Westboro Baptist Church has planned to descend upon Vassar in an action of hatred against our amazing campus. But it doesn’t matter. We’ve already won.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of all the efforts of each and every organization planning various counter-protests, activities, and collaborations during the days ahead. But when you look at the scoreboard, Vassar has already swept the WBC off its feet, and we did it through an immense, impressive, and wonderful initiative through the many social media outlets we utilize. Everyone who got involved—in whatever way no matter how big or small—has helped contribute to this success. Whatever happens on February 28 will surely be just as amazing as the past week and a half of achievement have been, but it’s important to note how much we have achieved through our efforts in social media and collaboration, proving the WBC has lost the battle merely by saying they wanted to come to Vassar.

It started with the flier in question being posted on Facebook. Let’s face it, we all had a good laugh over what the WBC were calling us out as. We laughed even harder when students, in last-minute Photoshops, would paste the flier—plus a few colorful changes—onto their cover pages. Once the fun had run its course though, the anticipation and excitement of doing something against a hate group like the Westboro Baptist Church gathered quickly. Facebook events were created; alumni started coming out of the woodwork in grand support; Cory Epstein ‘13 posted his “Do Something” call to action, and the ball continued to roll as literally thousands jumped onto the bandwagon. An alumnus, Josh De Leeuw ‘08, posted a small fundraiser on Crowdrise to raise “$100 per minute that the WBC is planning to protest for,” not knowing just how much it was going to raise. And we’re only talking about Sunday night here—a far cry from the days to come.

Social media helped facilitate the many achievements over these past few days, and the response that has come from off campus, our alumni, and the many media outlets talking about is a representation of just how much a little social media initiative can do. In 24 hours we had already broken the fundraising goal on De Leeuw’s Crowdrise, and it was speeding ahead to raise tens of thousands of dollars. The power of Twitter was apparent as well. While we weren’t exactly trending, you can look back at the dozens of tweets supporting our efforts—including one by a certain alum with 250,000 followers—and see how much we’ve accomplished in such a short time. Social media was the foundation to all of this. We have done a lot of commendable work already, and not just through fundraising. I’m talking about the countless messages and meetings online through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media realms that helped people get the word out to parents and friends, helped the facilitators keep in touch on such short notice, and fueled the engine of initiative. It’s impressive what a small campus can do, and everyone should realize how this couldn’t have been done without the power of social media, or the determination of our students.

Now while the battle may be over, it doesn’t mean we have to stop. That’s where the coming days and years ahead will have to play a part like none other. We’ve raised over $80,000 for the Trevor Project on the eve of the arrival of the Westboro Baptist Church, but what are we going to do on the day of—and the days, months, and years beyond that? This is an opportunity—a challenge even—for Vassar to go above and beyond each and every February 28 to make a stand against those who question the values of social justice, the values of acceptance, and the values of kindness. What are we doing to make sure this grand achievement of fundraising, camaraderie, and friendship is not going to be lost in the years to come? March 1 shouldn’t be a day of celebration, but a day of self-respect for our achievements, and the acknowledgment that it’s time to start preparing for our next February 28, so we can outdo ourselves year after year. We’ve already shown the WBC that this day they’ve chosen has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with us. Let’s take it a step further, and make sure they know that every day of every year is not about them, and all about us. Let’s do it with social media; let’s do it with outreach; let’s do it better than we did in 2013.


—Josh Sherman ‘16 is Assistant Opinions Editor for The Miscellany News.

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