Student Perspectives on Clown Sightings Affected by Social Media

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The clown craze has made its way to the Sam Houston State University campus. As of last week, clowns and clown sightings were all over social media, and students were either entertained or frightened by this.

University Police Chief Kevin Morris said the clown craze has been all across the country over the last month

“It’s become very popular and fairly copy-cat like,” Morris said. “We’re finally catching it on our end.”

According to Morris, the clowns began overseas a couple of years ago. Other countries have since caught on and started participating.

Last week, students were searching for clowns around campus at night. They would follow clues provided through social media platforms like Twitter.

There were reports on social media stating that clowns were sighted near the intramural fields, the pit, as well as other locations. Students were communicating back to the clowns through Twitter and documented their quest to find the clown(s) via snapchat.

“I think social media has a huge implication on how these are on how the myth of the perceptions of individuals how it is perpetuated especially when everyone takes social media as face value as if it is the truth without validating or checking to see if it is true or not,” Morris said. “I think social media allows individuals to be a little more voicetrous than what they may normally be in a group setting and they actually post things and they will not come back to them.”

Texas State University has had an incident where a female student sustained an injury while being chased by a clown. The student fell when she was grabbed by the clown.

“No one wants to get in trouble for this stuff; I would assume that most people are just having fun with it, but if a prank does go too far, it could land you in some serious trouble,” Morris said. “You could face arrest, or depending on the situation, you could also be referred to the Dean of Students’ office for their judicial process.”

Despite social media rumors, there have been no clown-related arrests made on campus or any credible reports of threats turned into UPD. However, Huntsville police has arrested one clown for disturbing peace at a local park.

According to Morris, there are a couple different aspects of the clown situation.

“I think it initially just started up as fun,” Morris said. “I think some people have taken it to extremes. Other people are kind of just having fun with it. Right now, what we’re seeing here on our campus is primarily people having fun. It’s close to Halloween. Maybe for them, it’s a good stress reliever. Because of the hype that has surrounded it over the last month it’s been associated with threats at schools’ people making wild statements online or on other social media aspects.”

Some students have felt threatened by this situation while others are having fun with it. It is kind of a mix. Education sophomore Alyssa Deason said the topic has created a lot of buzz because there have been reports on it happening many places other than Sam Houston.

“The clown sightings are pretty popular on campus because of the sightings that have been happening in other states as well,” Deason said. “I feel a little less safe because people are saying they’ve seen the clowns and some can be dangerous.”

Criminal Justice junior Drew Jenkins said he is not worried about the situation.

“I understand that there have actually not been any arrests on campus regardless of social media trying to tell everyone that dangerous clowns are running around,” Jenkins said. “My family isn’t worried at all. They believe the situation isn’t an issue unless clowns actually start attacking people around here.”

According to Morris, UPD does not police social media sites due to lack of resources. Social media is not something that UPD focuses on unless there is reason to believe there is a threat made to the university or community.

“With people posting on social media, false information, it creates more panic or distress to the situation that doesn’t need to be there,” Morris said. “Currently, our investigator is following up with these individuals who are putting this false information out there.”

Students can contact 936-294-1800 and select option 3 to be escorted or driven by either a student or UPD officer from one campus location to another campus location. This service is available during nighttime hours.

“At this time, there is no information that would suggest that there is a threat to the student body,” Morris said. “It’s always good to be aware of your surroundings; let people know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, where you’re going. It’s no different than any other time of the year.”

Last Wednesday night, a large portion of SHSU students received a safety notification warning them to evacuate the campus. This message was meant only for students of Lonestar College, but instead was sent to anyone who had ever been affiliated with that college.

The college had a gas leak on their campus in Tomball at the University Park campus.

The notification incident is still under investigation, but was not a case of illegal hacking. Students at other campuses also received the alert if they had ever been affiliated with Lonestar College in the past or present.

“I have a daughter that goes to Texas A&M, and she did dual credit through Lonestar so she actually got the notification too,” Morris said. “You add that on top of the social media event with the clowns, and it really caused a little bit of a panic among some people, especially parents which really caused an issue for us because it takes a lot of our resources.”

Because of the concern with the Lonestar alert and the clowns, UPD had to call in additional help. They needed to have more people in the dispatch office due to the surplus on phone calls they were receiving.

“We highly encourage parents to have their students contact us with their information,” Morris said. “That’s probably been one of the biggest things during this incident is that we actually haven’t had students contacting us about it; we’ve had parents, so it would be great to actually hear from the students who are having these issues where they don’t feel safe or they’re actually seeing clowns that they would contact us so that we can respond appropriately.”

If there is an emergency on the SHSU campus, UPD will communicate it with the students by sending KatSafe alerts. If students feel that they are in danger, it is encouraged that they contact UPD.

“If you see a clown, and you feel threatened please contact us immediately let us know where you’re at, where you are, where the clown is at how the clown is dressed and the direction that they are traveling so that our rosters can respond appropriately,” Morris said.

According to Morris, there was a similar incident at SHSU shortly after the release on the movie “Scream.” The ghost mask became popular to use to scare or prank others.

Jenkins said the clown situation has blown up due to social media interaction.

“I’m not worried about any clowns on campus; the situation hasn’t proven dangerous in this area as of yet,” Jenkins said. “Social media has definitely helped the clown issue spread to a lot more people than it would have normally. Pretty much everyone knows about it. Put a creepy situation like this in a college setting, and people will eat it up.”