WVU marketing students develop #RespectfulMountaineer social media campaign in response to weekend disturbances
After the destructive behavior that occurred throughout Morgantown by some students and visitors following Saturday’s victory against fourth-ranked Baylor, the pair who met freshmen year while living in Honors Hall wanted to help.
So they took to social media, where much of the damage to the University’s reputation had been done. Photos and videos from the disappointing events Saturday night had been surfacing and Morgantown had been trending for hours for all the wrong reasons.
Hickey, a junior born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, sent a Facebook message to Gandy, a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, asking, “what can we do?”
“WVU educates students to be successful for the workforce, and we need to be a great representation of that,” Gandy said. “The behavior that night is not who we are or what we want to be known for.”
"WVU educates students to be successful for the workforce, and we need to be a great representation of that. The behavior that night is not who we are or what we want to be known for."
The answer they come up with was a student-led social media awareness campaign, which they thought could showcase those who love WVU and Morgantown. To do so, they developed the #RespectfulMountaineer hashtag.
Hickey was the first person to use the hashtag on Twitter. At 4:23 p.m. on Sunday (Oct. 19) he tweeted, “My name is Chris Hickey and I’m a #RespectfulMountaineer. I love and respect this University and the town in which it resides.”
He and Gandy could not anticipate what would happen next. The hashtag exploded. While it didn’t trend nationally like Morgantown did on Saturday night, it hit home with many students, faculty, staff, alumni and fans across the world.
“While some students behaved inappropriately on Saturday night, many of us were so upset with how our second home was treated,” Hickey said. “We love this town, and the success we’ve had for this campaign shows that a lot of other students as well as alumni and residents feel that way, too.”
Within the last two days, the #RespectfulMountaineer hashtag has been used more than 1,500 times and has reached more than 500,000 people and 1.4 million timelines.
“It just clicked,” Gandy said. “We want it to be about the celebration, not the devastation … I know this is a movement that will have a lasting impact, because many students are fed up.”
The completely student-led initiative has University officials talking, including President Gordon Gee, who mentioned the #RespectfulMountaineer hashtag in his letter to the WVU community on Monday. He even joined in on Twitter by saying: “I am a #RespectfulMountaineer, because I know this state, its people and our institution can and will rise to their highest potential.”
"Deonna and Chris have clearly hit on a great idea that has resonated with Mountaineers all over. They will help change the culture. Their powerful message will take their University back."
“Deonna and Chris have clearly hit on a great idea that has resonated with Mountaineers all over,” said Corey Farris, WVU dean of students. “They will help change the culture. Their powerful message will take their University back.”
Morgantown City Council also applauded the social media campaign at Tuesday’s meeting, calling it “heartening” to see what students are doing to be part of the solution to the culture change.
The WVU community can join in on the effort from Gandy and Hickey by using #RespectfulMountaineer on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow the new Twitter account @RespectfulWVU, which was created Tuesday (Oct. 21) evening. If you want to get involved and follow next steps of this campaign, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONTACT: Sabrina Cave, Student Life
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