Western Carolina University Chancellor John W. Bardo apologized to the campus and community for what he called the “inappropriate behavior” and “poor judgment” of seven students who admitted to leaving the body of a dead bear beneath a statue on the WCU campus.
Those actions, which occurred Monday, Oct. 20, do not represent the beliefs of the entire university community, Bardo said during a noontime “conversation with the campus” Wednesday, Oct. 22.
Bardo called the open meeting in the center of campus to help dispel rumors and misinformation surrounding an incident that some people, both on and off the campus, have suggested was politically motivated because the bear was discovered with two Obama campaign posters stuck on its head.
An investigation by campus police and federal officials has found no political or racial motives behind the student action. Law enforcement officers are in consultation with the District Attorney’s Office to determine whether charges would be appropriate.
“This was a very inappropriate action taken by seven members of the university community,” Bardo told a crowd of more than 100 students, faculty and staff assembled on the lawn of A.K. Hinds University Center. “I don’t know, and we may never know, what their real motives were. I cannot look into their hearts.”
Regardless of why they did what they did, the students “should have been able to understand the consequences of their actions for themselves as individuals, for their families and for this university community,” he said.
“Unequivocally, what they did was wrong. Regardless of motivation, it was wrong,” Bardo said. “What also is very real is that seven members of this university community did something that was wrong. Nine thousand members of this university community did not do that. We are not going to allow seven people to define who you are. You are better than that. You are Western Carolina University.”
Bardo reminded the crowd that the university has a code of conduct and a creed centered on core values of respect for others, and the desire and ability to debate and discuss differences in a civil and meaningful way.
(Video of Bardo’s remarks no longer available.)