Education

Wake Forest University student who used racial slur on video is out

Someone hauls a pallet across the snowy expanse of Hearn Plaza on the Wake Forest University campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.
Someone hauls a pallet across the snowy expanse of Hearn Plaza on the Wake Forest University campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. AP

A student who used a racial slur in a video is no longer enrolled at Wake Forest University, the school’s president announced late Sunday.

In the video, posted on social media during the weekend, a student reportedly used the N-word and an obscenity in referring to her African-American resident adviser. The video showed a woman saying, “Let me know why I’m hammered again tonight. It’s 2 o’clock ... I just called my black RA a f------ n-----. Let me know. Why did I do that?”

It’s unclear whether the student was expelled or voluntarily withdrew from the university. Citing federal privacy laws, the university did not identify the student nor describe any specific action taken against her.

Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch sent a message to faculty, staff and students saying other students notified officials about what he said was “a deeply troubling video.” Students contacted officials using the university’s bias reporting website, Hatch wrote.

Hatch reiterated a statement from Penny Rue, vice president for campus life, who on Saturday said racist and discriminatory acts are not tolerated at Wake Forest.

“We are committed to building a welcoming community in which all members are supported, and in which dialogue and understanding prevail,” Hatch’s statement said.

“University leaders took this matter very seriously,” he added. “Staff in the Division of Campus Life immediately began an investigation and offered additional support services to students.”

The campus newspaper, the Old Gold & Black, reported that the student, a freshman, originally posted the video Friday on a Finsta, a fake Instagram account, which can be viewed only by a select circle of friends. Another student then copied the video and posted it to Twitter later that night, the newspaper reported.

The University of Alabama recently expelled a student for using a racial slur on Instagram. The slur went viral when someone else tweeted it. The student later apologized, and her mother told news media she agreed with the university’s decision.

A Philadelphia-based campus civil liberties group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, published a column last week taking the University of Alabama to task for its response to the situation. The university had violated the student’s First Amendment free speech rights by expelling her, FIRE’s Ari Cohn wrote.

In advising other university administrators, Cohn continued: “Negative publicity regarding the actions of one of your students may be frustrating, but violating the constitutional rights of your students will not solve the problem. At best, you throw fuel on the fire, ensuring that on top of any other issue, your disregard for the law is discussed across the nation for all to see.”

Logan McKey, the Wake Forest student who posted her fellow student’s video to Twitter, said that use of the N-word on Finstas was a trend at majority white universities. Several people called for the university to take action, as did an editorial Saturday in the student paper.

The video was later removed, but it appeared on another Twitter account late Sunday. It had been viewed more than 30,000 times.

“I want to be clear. I love my school,” McKey tweeted Monday. “I still think I made the right decision to attend WFU (nor do I think this institution is racist). The purpose of this post was to exploit intentional racism and ultimately prove that such discriminatory decisions should have consequences.”

Hatch thanked students for notifying the university about the video. “I encourage each of us to redouble our efforts in the days ahead to support those who are hurting acutely and take every opportunity to make our community better,” Hatch’s statement said.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill

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