A Civic Project story
By Emilee Larkin
INDIANA — Katelyn J. Hecei was a freshman at Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Dec. 8, 2015, when her roommate took a photo of a group of African-American students in the Stapleton Library, posted it to the video-messaging application Snapchat and labeled the students as “monkeys.” The image and caption went viral on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.
Hecei (HE-see), 20, of Warren, Pa., said she was a friend of her roommate and expressed shock that she would do something like that.
“The way her post made my friends feel broke my heart,” Hecei said in a March 6 Twitter message. “A campus where diversity was celebrated was tainted by one person.”
Hecei said she faced some backlash, too. She said some people on campus assumed she felt the same way as her roommate because they were friends.
“It went on for about a week, the messages to me and the random bangs on the door at night,” Hecei said. “But after I reached out to some students, I felt cleared of any issues.”
Hecei lives in Phoenix, no longer an IUP student.
“I stopped attending IUP because the environment wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of,” said Hecei in a March 30 Twitter message. “The whole place felt so toxic. The people were rude and didn’t care about other people.”
Hecei said she still thinks about the Snapchat incident and its impact.
“I still think about how much what one person says can hurt another, or a whole race,” Hecei said.