Black mental health matters II

2020 is a year WMU students and the rest of the world will likely never forget. 

Western Herald’s photo staff took thousands of pictures to tell the many stories encountered this year. In what has been a whirlwind of breaking news and historic moments, it is difficult to remember everything that happened through an entire year. Let’s review some of this year’s biggest stories and best photos that have been a part of Western Michigan University’s story this past year. 


Well over 100 people packed a Kalamazoo Planning Committee meeting to discuss a proposal to remove a natural features protection overlay (NFP) and rezone land near Asylum Lake Preserve on Jan. 14, 2020. The meeting lasted nearly six hours. 

Asylum Lake

Students for a Sustainable Earth held signs opposing a new car wash in the back of an overflowing Kalamazoo Planning Committee meeting Jan. 14, 2020.

WMU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted a ‘Teach-in’: a series of speaking engagements open to students and the Kalamazoo community as part of its Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Jan. 20, 2020. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Activist Marshall Kilgore examined coalition building within the LGBTQ+ and African American community.

Student leaders clashed with university officials at WMU’s Bernhard Center during the Hilltop Village public input session Jan. 23, 2020. The meeting, initially meant to receive feedback for WMU’s new loop road, turned south after students learned more buildings in addition to the ‘Little 3’ student housing community would be torn down.


President of WMU’s Residence Life Association David Hoskins and WSA vice presidential candidate Alex Lawrence confronted WMU Director of Planning David Dakin about the school’s elimination of affordable housing options on campus.



 An audience member accused Western Michigan University’s School of Music’s “Spirituals: From Ship to Shore,” of cultural appropriation. A member of the production of spoke out about her hesitance toward her choirs’ performance after tweets from the audience member went viral. The performance by various members of WMU’s vocal ensembles and led by John Wesley Wright, reportedly told the majority white audience the songs they would perform were “for everyone,” and “have no ethnicity.”

Dalton recital hall

Dalton Recital Hall

In one of this year’s most colorful performances, the Office of LBGT Student Services partnered with Campus Activities Board and OUTspoken to host their annual drag show Feb. 22, 2020. The show featured performances from local drag queens and centered around a competition between Western Michigan University students for the title of 2020 OUTSpoken rising star. 

Local drag queen, Gabriella Stratton Galore

Local drag queen, Gabriella Stratton Galore, performs at the annual OUTSpoken drag show.

Celebrity guest, Evah Destruction.

Celebrity guest, Evah Destruction.

Pam from HR

OUTSpoken 2020 Rising Star competition winner, Pam from HR.


Sen. Bernie Sanders visited Grand Rapids March 8, 2020. Sanders emphasized how important Michigan is to him and the upcoming presidential election. Sanders urged more than 7000 attendees to go out and vote in Michigan’s Democratic Primary and in November’s general election. The Sanders campaign hosted a number of advocates including former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed and former presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Jesse Jackson

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sen. Bernie Sanders embrace at Calder Plaza after Jackson gives his first public endorsement of Sanders.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders looks into the crowd observing the over 7000 attendees. He jokingly greets his supporters: “I didn’t know there was this many people in Grand Rapids,” referencing the dense crowd at Grand Rapids’ Calder Plaza

The Office of the President informed WMU students and families of the university’s plan to extend distance learning to the end of the semester and close residence halls March 20, 2020. Students were given five days to move out as WMU’s dormitories closed at 8 p.m. on Tuesday March 24 due to precautionary measures to prevent continued COVID-19 spread. 

Empty Classroom

An empty classroom in WMU's Sangren Hall leaves chairs pushed in neatly, patiently waiting for in-person instruction to begin again. 

students leave res halls

Students and parents packed belongings in order to travel home and finish the rest of the school year online.


With no student on campus, the normally welcomed spring flowers and growth went, for the most part, unappreciated. Students who did remain in Kalamazoo were highly encouraged to socially distance and wear masks. 

Miller Auditorium sign

Miller Auditorium displays messages of hope on its sign off Howard Street.

social distance convo

Two students have a socially distanced conversation adjacent to an empty Miller fountain.


Hundreds of protesters marched peacefully through Kalamazoo on May 30, 2020 in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. Protesters marched into Bronson Park sharing speeches and messages of solidarity. As activism against police brutality and racism across the country intensified, protesters in Kalamazoo made sure to note that cases like that of George Floyd are not isolated and swift justice should come to the police officers involved in Floyd’s death. 

George Floyd I

As the protest culminated in Bronson Park, protesters took the stage and passionately addressed the crowd in downtown Kalamazoo.

George Floyd II

Protesters held a candle lit vigil in response to the killing of George Floyd who died by the hands of four Minneapolis police officers.


Former Western Michigan defensive tackle Jamal Williams was among two people killed in a shooting on June 16, 2020 at a hospital in Munster, Indiana. Family and friends of Jamal, along with roughly 100 other demonstrators gathered peacefully outside Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. June 25 to remember the life of and demand justice for the 22-year-old who was shot and killed at the hospital. Jamal’s sister, Imani Williams, said in Jamal Williams’ last days, even though she knew something wasn’t right with him, all he wanted was peace in the world amid social unrest in the country.

Jamal Williams Sister

Jamal Williams' sister Imani (left) and Jamal's friend Juan Gutierrez (right) lead a protest march around Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. demanding justice for the former WMU football player.

Black Mental Health Matters

Family and friends of Williams called for justice and accountability on the part of Freeman and Community Hospital at a protest and vigil outside of the hospital.

Jamal Williams Vigil

Loved ones of Jamal Williams join together in prayer as they remember the life of Jamal Williams outside Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. on June 25, 2020.


Western Michigan University released its Safe Return Plan for the Fall Semester in an email July 17, 2020. The plan included steps the university is taking to keep students safe in dorms and dining halls due to COVID-19. Masks would be required in all indoor and outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible. 

WMU main campus sign

Western Michigan University intended to welcome students back to campus Sept. 2, 2020 thanks to steps outlined in the Safe Return Plan.


Students began to move into on-campus and off-campus housing at the end of August. Fall semester classes would begin Sept. 2. At this time, the university reported 16 cases of COVID-19 in the WMU community since Aug. 9.

Move in

First year students move into Western Heights residence halls as Fall Welcome leaders guide parents to unload belongings in the grass August 29, 2020.


Students gathered in front of the Seibert Administration Building in protest of in-person classes at WMU Aug. 31, 2020. Due to the ongoing pandemic, concerns about coronavirus testing, WMU’s “Safe Return Plan” and overall health of the Kalamazoo community were raised as students moved back onto campus. The group later met with VP of Academic Affairs Jennifer Bott to discuss their demands. 

Student Protest

Students protested in-person classes outside Seibert Administration Building Aug. 31, 2020.

student protest and Bott

Larkin Babbitt discussed demands for the university to go completely virtual with VP of Academic Affair Jennifer Bott.


Online classes have presented many pros and cons for students attending WMU. Indoor spaces were deemed unsafe so many students and professors found ways to enjoy nice weather outside and still learn effectively that way.

Outdoor class

Many students decide to take their studies outside to avoid indoor areas such as Waldo Library or Sprau Tower.

Outdoor class II

Band students practiced outside using bell covers and bags around their instruments with holes just big enough to fit their hands into in order to diminish the spread of Covid-19.

outdoor class III

Choir classes rehearse at the bottom of the Greek steps near Dunbar hall for improved acoustics. 

Outdoor class IV

Dance classes took advantage of nice weather under outdoor tents set up around campus.

 Western Michigan theatre students took to Miller Fountain Plaza to perform the musical “Sunday in the Park with George'' Sept. 17-20. The show, inspired by paintings by French pointillist Georges Seurat, fictionalized Georges’ life and that of his great-grandson (also named George). Due to Covid-19, patrons brought their own lawn chairs or blankets and were seated in household “pods” for social distancing purposes. Both actors and audience members were required to wear masks.

In the park w/ george

The WMU Department of Theatre presented "Sunday in the Park with George" to the delight of the campus community. The show set a precedent for the program in an era of social distancing where inside shows have become a thing of the past.

In the park with george II

The crowd sat in socially distanced pods in Miller Plaza. Attendees were encouraged to bring their own blankets and chairs in order to remain comfortable.

After months of outrage and activism, a Kentucky grand jury indicted only one of three officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. Black Lives Matter supporters gathered in front of the Kalamazoo County Courthouse Sept. 23, 2020 to advocate for proper justice for Taylor.

Breonna Taylor Protest

Demonstrators made efforts to get drivers involved as rush hour traffic passed through downtown Kalamazoo Sept. 23, 2020.

Breonna Taylor Protest II

Cars honked in response to the messages displayed on advocates signs as daylight fades away.


Several WMU Fall Court finalists spoke out on the lack of diversity of this year's candidates. They proposed a call to action to highlight the lack of representation seen on the court. Finalists Sarah Obermeyer and Marley Reilly were crowned WMU homecoming royalty after voting took place all week.

Fall court I

The 2020 Fall Court traveled around WMU's Ring Road in the Fall Fest car parade on Oct. 10, 2020.

Fall court II

The 2020 fall court parade allowed the public to join and those who registered were invited to deck their cars out in as much Brown and Gold as they could find.

Athletes from Western Michigan varsity sports marched for social justice Oct. 30, 2020. The march, held by WMU athletics diversity task force We Must Unite, began at Kanley Track and ended at Waldo Stadium. Once there, several student athletes gave speeches discussing their experiences regarding race, diversity and bias.

Athlete March

Western Michigan athletes passed around megaphones each taking turns at starting chants as they marched towards Waldo Stadium Oct. 30, 2020.

Athlete March II

The student-athletes were encouraged to wear their We Must Unite t-shirts and several had them on over hoodies or jackets to stay warm. They were also encouraged to make signs with a social justice focus. Masks were required for all participating in the march.


Western Michigan University students hit the polls to vote in the 2020 presidential election Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polls closed at 8:00 p.m. in Michigan, wrapping up one of the fiercest elections in U.S. history. Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many students made their way to WMU’s Bernhard Center to cast their ballot in person. This year, a satellite clerk's office at the Bernhard Center allowed first time voters to register on election day. 


Students and Kalamazoo residents came to the polls to cast their votes in the Bernhard Center Nov.3.

election II

Due to the coronavirus pandemic many poll volunteers and voters wore varying levels of PPE.

Election III

Students waited in lines up to an hour long to vote at the Bernhard Center.

election IV

A student registers to vote for the first time while in line at WMU’s Bernhard center Nov. 3.

Teams in the Mid-American Conference played a six-game schedule starting on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 after the 12 university presidents voted unanimously to reinstate fall football. After an exciting and mostly successful season, the Broncos ended their regular season with a 4-2 record, losing their last two games. WMU came up just short of the MAC West title and again missed their opportunity to go to Ford Field. 

WMU football celebrates

Redshirt senior center Wesley French (66) carries quarterback Keleb Eleby (5) in celebration of beating Toledo on a faked spike for a touchdown at Waldo Stadium Nov. 11, 2020.

Waldo stadium stands

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, in person attendance at Waldo Stadium was extremely limited this year. Bronco fans were able to place cardboard cutouts of themselves in the stands to show their support.

Keleb Eleby

Quarterback Keleb Eleby had himself a season, finishing fourth in the nation in pass efficiency while throwing for 18 touchdown passes to just two interceptions with a 65% completion rate and 1,699 yards through the air. Eleby also found the end zone four times on the ground.

D'wayn Eskeridge

D’Wayne Eskridge hauls in a catch for an eventual touchdown against Ball State at Scheumann Stadium in Muncie, Ind. Dec. 12.  Eskridge had 33 catches for 768 yards and eight touchdowns in six games this season making him first team All-MAC selection and Special Teams Player of the Year.

As WMU students finished up their coursework before Thanksgiving break, WMU  moved to virtual classes once again. The switch began Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020 following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement of a new emergency order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

covid thansgiving II

A student receives a rapid COVID-19 test from their car outside Sindecuse health center as part of WMU’s pre-thanksgiving testing event.

covid thanksgiving

The statue outside of WMU’s Chemistry Building dons a disposable mask.


Crowds gathered at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in celebration of the first shipments of Pfizer and BioNtech’s COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 13, 2020. After emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer located in Kalamazoo’s neighboring city of Portage, began to prepare vaccines for hospitals and nursing homes around the country.


Children show their homemade sign to the departing jet carrying doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to hospitals around the country.

Vaccine II

Onlookers watch as planes take off from Gerald R. Ford International Airport carrying Covid-19 vaccines. 

As students prepared for finals week, some noticed a campus landmark was missing. A statue of a whale located by Faunce Student Services, known to students as “The Whale,” was removed because it was becoming structurally unsafe. The Whale held an important place in the folklore of WMU. A popular student legend says those who step on the Western seal outside Waldo’s Library are doomed to fail their classes unless they pour a cup of water from the Waldo fountain over the statue.

Whale Statue

Where the statue used to lay is now just a patch of dirt in an empty field. The Whale was removed Dec. 11.

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