Open Letter to the Collegian Media Group Advertising Staff

​UPDATE (8/25/17) I cannot thank each and every one of you enough for continuing to press forward in this fight. 1,500 supporters? Wow. I'm floored by the support this petition has gained; I had no idea what this would become. WE are making a difference here. 

Many of you have read yesterday's disappointing response from the Collegian's ad staff. If you haven't, I'd encourage you to read it - the link is here. I was contacted by the head of the advertising staff yesterday and expected to speak with them at some point; this has yet to occur. I have also been in contact with some of the most wonderfully supportive faculty & staff at K-State who are researching best steps forward. 

Let me be clear: This is not an issue of free speech. Relativism of opinion or belief will not stand as a valid argument, not with me. The core issue here is that strip clubs perpetuate one of the most sinister and overlooked crimes this country knows: the trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation. We do not want a paper so closely associated with our university (or any paper, for that matter) to continue to publish such degrading material. 

I hope that you will continue to stand for this. Our hope must come from knowing this battle is ultimately already won. (Ephesians 6:12-13) As my dear friend Lauren said in her response yesterday, "Each time we leverage our power and privilege to actively reject the dehumanization of others, we win battles that eventually culminate in winning wars." I believe in this wholeheartedly. Keep pushing forward, friends. Every seed planted makes an enormous difference.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (8/23/17): We are past 500 signatures - that is amazing. I did need to make one very important connection: the Collegian's staff is not responsible for which ads make it to the paper. Rather, there is a separate advertising staff responsible for those decisions. This petition has been newly directed at this team. My apologies to the Collegian's staff as I have been made aware that they have also made many requests of the ad staff to stop running these ads as well. Thank you, Collegian! I have also been made aware that because the Collegian is independent from Kansas State University, K-State has no ability to enforce or change the way the paper runs. The views and decisions that the Collegian makes do not necessarily reflect Kansas State's values or opinions. 

To Collegian Media Group's advertising staff: We stand behind this request. Please share this update so that people are aware of who we are petitioning towards!

​You can sign the petition here:​​

To the Collegian's advertising committee, and to all my fellow Wildcats:

My name is Wheeler Crimm and I am an alumni of our wonderful university, with a degree in Family Studies and Human Services and a minor in Conflict Analysis and Trauma Studies. I spent my time at K-State learning about what makes people who they are, and about how, unfortunately, traumatic experiences have a significant and lasting impact on the who we are as human beings. I took a class during a winter intercession as part of my minor requirements called "Advanced Trauma." During this class, I learned about many forms of traumatic stress, one being the horrors of human sex trafficking and the havoc it wreaks on vulnerable people. I learned that trafficking happens not only in the red light districts of Thailand and Amsterdam, but within our nation's borders, even in our backyards. A fire was sparked deep within me, one I knew wouldn't be put out quietly. I needed to figure out how to play my part in eradicating this terrible system.

I went on to intern during the spring of 2017 at a nonprofit in Manhattan called Homestead Ministries, Inc. This incredible organization is dedicated to the transitional care of women who are exiting the sex trafficking industry in one way or another. I had the outrageous privilege of getting to know several Homesteaders - women who were participants in the Homestead's program. I was honored to hear their stories and walk alongside them as they battled addiction, hopelessness, and shame. I saw many of them walk forward in victory towards the glorious future that awaits them. They walked out of some of the darkest places - abusive relationships, trafficking rings, strip clubs - into the light of hope and freedom and grace.

As part of the ministry of the Homestead, I participated in monthly trips to several strip clubs in a nearby town in an effort to spread some light to women steeped in darkness. We saw firsthand where some of our Homesteaders had come from, and it was heart-shattering. The women we met had some of the roughest stories I've heard and yet carried the most resilient spirits within them. It was heartbreaking to see such beautiful women in such dark places. Many of them were there because they in desperate financial situations, and many of them faced heavy addiction issues. They came from broken places, as do many of us. What most of them failed to realize is that they were being treated as sexual objects, as toys to gratify the desires of greedy and addiction-ridden men. There are always signs posted in these clubs that touching the dancers is unacceptable. However, there were "VIP Rooms" in the backs of these clubs where unspoken indecency occurred, and the women were given no choice whether or not to participate. They were supposedly paid extra for these experiences.

In short, the trafficking of women (young women, might I add - we met several ladies who were freshly eighteen years old) for sexual exploitation is happening miles from our college town of Manhattan, Kansas, if not closer. I have seen it with my own eyes.

All this being said, I am extremely disappointed to see that the Collegian frequently publishes full-page advertisements for one of these clubs, advertisements that specifically offer employment to young women.

I love our alma mater. Following graduation, I moved out to the West Coast. I am proud to tell people where I went to school. But this? This is a disgrace. Collegian, you are promoting sex trafficking. There is no other way to state it.

It pains me to see rape culture perpetuated in and around our university. Several recent events have caused me to feel ashamed of Kansas State. It's discouraging enough to watch members of the armed forces who are stationed at Fort Riley visiting these clubs. But to know that my school's newspaper is promoting visiting these places and even employment within them to our own students? I cannot stay silent about this.

I am not interested in name-calling or blame-gaming. I am interested in change. I am starting a petition to call for the end of these advertisements in the Collegian. I am calling for all K-State students to realize that promoting the objectification of women is unacceptable. I am calling for us to shine a light on the dark places in and around our community. I am calling for us to look at the faces of these women and to see the faces of our sisters, daughters, mothers, nieces, friends. I am calling for anyone - student, fraternity member, Fort Riley resident or otherwise - who has visited these places as a consumer or otherwise to think about the consequences of your actions. Not only for yourself - that beckons another letter entirely - but for the women you encounter. 

On the front page of K-State's website, there is the following statement: "The K-State family is powered by world-changers, answer-seekers and difference-makers - that's the Wildcat Way."

I am so proud of the family atmosphere K-State says that it stands for, but I'm not seeing the follow-through as of late. Let me be clear: We cannot minimize this issue - nor other issues concerning rape culture which have arisen as of late - and move forward as a unified family. 

One of my favorite animated movies as a child, Lilo & Stitch, says this about family:

"Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten."

By publishing this ad, you are leaving behind the personhood of millions of women. You are choosing to forget the humanness and the innate value within them. 

A family is not just a crowd of purple shirts at a football game. If that is how we define it, we really need to take a good look at what we value.

Stand up for what's right, K-State. Stand up for those whose voices have been drowned out by the shouts of oppression and objectification. Stand up for what family really means. 

​You can sign the petition here:​​