Once having caused a huge uproar, the infamous WCU bear incident of October 20, 2008 has transformed into nothing more than a hushed memory, a memory that Western Carolina University would prefer to repress. Although the incident was dismissed as a “prank” by administration, two students, questioned by the campus police, the U.S. Secret Service, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and a wild life act without a license or permit.
After the incident, Western Carolina University received much unwanted attention and a great deal of coverage, being broadcasted not only by CNN Headline News, but also internationally in Europe and South America. A lot of the university’s community feared that this negative coverage would degrade the university’s name. It has caused controversy as to whether the incident was a harmless “prank,” or a racial stab at Obama during the election season.
Though the true motivation behind the incident may never be known, the only truth comes from the fact that “regardless of motivation, it was wrong,” which Chancellor John Bardo said at a gathering held on Wednesday, October 21 when he spoke to the students about the event.
As to whether or not the image of Western Carolina University was blemished as a result of the ill-timed incident, Dr. Sam Miller, Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs, does not think the university’s name was tarnished.
Miller stated, “So much attention came at once and then left. Most of the negativity associated with the incident was overshadowed by the positive developments currently being added to the campus, such as the new dining hall and the honors dorm.”
As for the mindset of Western Carolina University’s small town, and the comfort that comes from the belief that nothing bad can happen, Miller urges the students, faculty, and community to understand that even in small towns, shocking and horrific incidents can occur. Students should always be prepared for anything that might happen.