Originally published: April 5, 2014, 12:08 a.m.
Updated: April 5, 2014, 9:10 a.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On the heels of a campus protest Friday and a long, controversial week in which it fought back on allegations of discrimination, Central Piedmont Community College’s (CPCC) official Twitter account melted down in a series of confrontational, false and misleading tweets late Friday night.
The college has come under scrutiny after transgender student Andraya Williams said she was harassed and detained by campus security officers after using a restroom. The student says she was then escorted off campus and told she was suspended. Additionally, Williams and her attorney, Sarah Demarest, say that campus officials worked to prevent her from filing a complaint regarding the incident. One official, Williams alleges, told her she had “no legal rights.”
On Friday night, the college’s official Twitter account, @cpcc, struck back at online critics. The confrontational engagement by the college’s official social media presence is quite unusual for public institutions.
In addition to similar responses to several other users, CPCC responded to a qnotes message linking to our story on the Friday protest. qnotes had tweeted a message highlighting a statement by Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer, who had said the college should stop engaging on Twitter and actually meet with their student.
“Would you rather we not reply at all via Twitter?” the college said.
Via Twitter, the newspaper asked the official CPCC Twitter account user if they were aware we are media and if they had read our story and Windmeyer’s statement.
“Right. We are in communications w the students, the community and media. Social is one channel of the mix,” CPCC responded. “Criticism to meet and not Tweet is misguided. We are engaging + responding through multiple channels.”
Misleading statements continue
The college also continued to release false statements regarding the initial incident which began protests this week.
CPCC had initially claimed to qnotes and several other media Williams was escorted off their campus for refusing to show her student ID.
Yet, an incident report later released by the college revealed that Williams did, in fact, show her ID. The college and Williams dispute the exact details of the exchange and how quickly the ID was shown, but the very fact the ID was eventually shown is documented by the incident report.
Despite these facts, CPCC’s Twitter account responded to several other Twitter users and told them Williams was “removed from campus for failing to cooperate & provide ID to campus security.”
When reached for comment late Friday night and asked to explain both the recent Twitter statuses and the college’s continued false statements, CPCC Public Information Officer Jeff Lowrance said he had not seen any of the Twitter messages.
“I’m looking into the tweets,” Lowrance said. “Official comment from the college comes from me, and I haven’t sent any tweets. The statement from yesterday remains the official word from the college. No further comment has come from me.”
When pushed for follow up — including the name of the staffer in charge of Twitter and clarifications on the college’s continued false statements to the public — Lowrance stopped communication.
“I’m disengaging for the evening,” Lowrance said.
He added, “Again, official comment comes from me via email or phone. Community dialogue will not come through social media. There will be face to face discussions.”