While most students were enjoying the LSU football team’s victory over the Georgia Southern Eagles on Saturday, a group of University freshmen were having racially-charged comments volleyed at them.
Biology freshman Christy Nguyen and her friends were about to exit Tiger Stadium with only two minutes left in the second quarter when they heard comments directed at them from eight feet away.
“It was really humiliating; he was yelling, and everyone around was just looking,” Nguyen said. “He even had the satisfaction of seeing us leave.”
Nguyen and her friends said, political science sophomore Foxworth Vidrine repeatedly yelled for them to get out of the student section by using hate speech and referring to them with derogatory terms, including “ching chongs.”
No one else in the area seemed affected by the incident, said chemical engineering freshman Thao Ngo.
“No one even tried to stop it,” Ngo said. “We were just shocked and had no clue what to do.”
One of Nguyen’s friends took a picture of Vidrine, which Nguyen then posted on Twitter, hoping to identify him and bring the situation to the University’s attention. The tweet went viral, getting more than 33,000 retweets, and prompted some Twitter users to identify Vidrine.
Most of the reactions to the tweet were positive, supporting Nguyen and her friends. Nguyen said most of the people who retweeted the tweet or reached out to them were also minorities who sympathized with the discrimination they experienced.
However, some disagreed with Nguyen’s choice of going public with the events.
Nguyen said one person went as far as telling her, “I hope you get beat up.”
Nguyen said several students who reached out on Twitter didn’t believe Vidrine’s actions to be out of character.
“That’s his character, everyone that talked to us said he’s known to be like that,” Nguyen said.
As of Tuesday, Vidrine had not reached out to Nguyen or her friends with an apology for his actions, which came to them as a surprise.
“People are just going to act like it never happened,” Ngo said.
Nguyen and her friends attended a lunch meeting with Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Mari Fuentes-Martin on Tuesday. According to biology freshman Madaleine Vo, the meeting didn’t address potential consequences for Vidrine at all.
“The whole meeting was essentially about how we can react as a community versus finding any type of consequence or solution,” Vo said.
The group met with Fuentes-Martin prior to their meeting on Tuesday. According to them, they were told that Vidrine’s words were not threatening and were protected by his right to freedom of speech.
“We just didn’t understand that because hate speech and freedom of speech are two different things,” Vo said.
The group doesn’t believe the University is handling the situation properly.
“They haven’t even addressed it,” Ngo said. “The way that they’re handling it is by teaching the victim and the people around the victim what to do if that happens again instead of dealing with the person who actually did the hurtful act. It makes us feel like we did something wrong or are unwelcome.”
The group feels they are being victim-shamed for speaking out against Vidrine and the racism they experienced. They feel the University is more focused on its reputation than addressing the situation.
“It was our first home game, too,” Nguyen said. “It almost makes us not want to go back.”
On Sept. 6, Fuentes-Martin responded to The Reveille's requests for comment. She said the University has received the girls' report of the incident and is working toward a solution. According to Fuentes-Martin, the University can't disclose any potential discipline Vidrine may face as that would become part of his federally protected educational record.
LSU has received the report and has been meeting with the students involved," Fuentes-Martin said. "The language and words used in this incident do not reflect who we are as a university and the welcoming environment we have created for students of all backgrounds. The university is committed to maintaining a safe living and learning environment that embraces individual differences and values cultural inclusion. Regarding potential discipline or violations that could result from this investigation, we cannot discuss or disclose anything pertaining to an individual student as that is part of a student’s federally protected educational record (FERPA). That process would be handled through LSU’s Office of Student Advocacy & Accountability as outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.”
The Reveille reached out to Vidrine. He has not responded nor provided any comment.