Campus reactions to local tragedies illustrate our respect problem

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Bryce Randall, Contributing Writer

What happened to the concept of being respectful? It seems the most courteous thing students on this campus can do is hold open a door for the person behind them. 

About a month ago, Alice E. Woodson, 32, was jaywalking — as many of us do — across West Broad Street when she was hit by a GRTC bus. When she was found, Woodson was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Death is quite a familiar subject for VCU students. Unfortunately, we live in a city where violence is somewhat common. Every week in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, there’s a new murder story, or one about someone being caught and convicted. At this point, death comes as no surprise. What made Woodson’s death shocking was the complete lack of respect on the part of some VCU students. 

A student who witnessed the accident took it upon himself to take a video of the “mangled” body and post about it on his social media. Additionally, he went on to post, “if you want the vid, just ask me,” to his Snapchat. Evidently, he wasn’t mindful of the Logan Paul situation from a few years ago, when the YouTube star took a video showing an apparent suicide victim hanging from a tree in a Japanese forest. Let me give the gist of what we learned from this: Posting videos of corpses is disrespectful. 

If you see a body in the middle of the street, your initial reaction should be to call emergency services if they aren’t already on the scene. If they are, move on — it is none of your business. 

Corpses are not props or forms of entertainment; they are real people. They are people who have reached the end of their road, not prizes to add to your social media collection. I doubt you would take a video at a close family member’s funeral to post on Snapchat, so have the same respect for others. 

On my quest to find out more information about the bus incident, I stumbled onto yet another example of VCU students not knowing the “dos and don’ts” of posting to social media. In a less newsworthy situation, a VCU student took it upon herself to mock a woman, whom many have assumed to be homeless, on campus. 

 It’s sickening that some students are willing to post jokingly about this woman, but cannot be bothered to call her by her name — if they even took the time to ask. This presumably homeless woman is seen walking around campus almost every day. We all have seen her. She isn’t bothersome or rude, and I have never seen her ask for money. Instead of giving money or food to a woman who is obviously in need, the sorority members chose to whip out their phones and make fun of her.

On top of this, the woman is clearly not the rapper Kodak Black — who she was being compared to in the picture — and the attempt to establish a likeness between them is demeaning. But who needs to take the time to understand someone when it’s OK to generalize people based on their skin color and hairstyle, right?

Even on a smaller scale, outside these two major examples, VCU students still lack respect. A few days ago, I was leaving the Academic Learning Commons, and a man had dropped a large box of pens on the ground. A whopping total of two people stopped to help him. 

Understandably, not everyone can pause their day and help him pick up pens. Many of us are on our way to classes or meetings. However, many of us also have nothing better to do with our time. There were people no further than 5 feet away from the man who just stood and watched him scramble to collect his pens. 

Ironically, it seems that a lot of VCU students claim to be “woke” and aware of the issues plaguing the community. Many people on campus want to do “big things” and fix the world’s problems. But how can you do that when some of you can’t even fix the small things on campus? 

I doubt that the majority of you intend to be disrespectful. However, that being said, the campus community needs to do better. Think twice before posting to social media. Take time to be kind to others, including homeless people. Extend a hand to those in need, especially when you’ve got nothing to lose. It’s sad to see how little we care about others. Our parents raised us better than this. 

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