Stop clowning around: It’s no laughing matter

Reports of clowns publicly frightening people in Pennsylvania and across the nation continue, and for Wilkes University students, the situation is no joke.

Society has created clowns to become a symbol of fear through the media, specifically through movies in the horror genre that utilize clowns like “It”.

“Clowns are really freaky and they scare the bejeezus out of me because I watched the movie “It” at 10 years old,” said Richard Gilson, a sophomore criminology major at Wilkes University.

A traditional clown with white makeup, a big smile, a round red nose and big shoes has always been found in circuses and carnivals, but this fall clowns have found a new home causing trouble in public places across the entire country just to get a scare out of people.   

Wilkes students tend to believe that clowns should remain a symbol for humor.  Once they are removed from the originally intended context, they become a symbol of fear.

“They have their place in society as a funny symbol, but besides that, they should be left at carnivals,” said Covey Austin, a sophomore biology major.  “There is no reason to dress up as clowns to scare people.”

It may be the case that some of the people disguised as clowns are not intending to cause physical harm; however, there have been far too many situations where clowns have used violence.

Christopher Jagoe, director of Wilkes’ Public Safety, said someone dressing as a clown does not automatically represent a problem.

“Addressing such an incident would be situational.  For instance, we would not stop someone  dressed as a clown on Halloween unless the persons behavior required us to.  Wearing a costume such as this is not illegal.  Certain behaviors displayed or actions by the wearer, however, may be interpreted by others as threatening, intimidating, or harassing – all of which could result in an escalated response and more serious consequences for the person in the costume.”

It is hard to look over the cases of assault both to and by those in clown costumes.  Intentions are unclear by individual clowns which has resulted in many pedestrians jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst.  This may even mean they protect themselves through violence.

Trenton Hagan, a sophomore marketing student at Wilkes University believes there is a large portion of the population that is terrified of clowns so it is horrible to go into public and dress as something that would scare mass amounts of people. It is also dangerous for those dressing up as clowns because people are taking it into their own hands, standing up for themselves, and assaulting clowns.

The jury is still out as to why people are joining the clown bandwagon, but it is evident that since the beginning of this phenomenon, more clowns have shown up. 

It seems “people are catching on because they think it’s a funny trend.  Nobody would have done this before, had a few people not started it up and the media had not blown it all out of proportion,” said Patrice Lonardi, a Wilkes University sophomore marketing major.

Jagoe added that rumor has also contributed to the clown sightings and fears. 

“Many of these incidents are not based on facts and are generated and amplified by rumor, social media and/or media echo,” he explained.

“Clown sightings have been reported seemingly everywhere at the local and national level.  As this issue gets more attention it only makes it more likely that copycats will want in on the controversy.  Students at Wilkes University (or their visitors) should be aware that any behavior which disrupts the academic mission or activities on campus would be minimally subject to a disciplinary referral.

“On or off campus, Wilkes University expects our students to maintain standards of conduct that are not only in compliance with campus conduct regulations and the laws, but to maintain behavior that is not detrimental to or discredits our campus,” Jagoe continued. “We have confidence that our students recognize how seemingly innocuous actions taken could have serious repercussions in today’s environment and have the maturity level to behave accordingly.”