In light of the country’s current racial divide, the University has recently faced backlash surrounding its statement regarding incoming freshmen Drew Dollar and sophomore Gavin Reynolds for using racial slurs on social media.
Actress Skai Jackson, most known for her role as Zuri in Disney Channel’s Jessie, has not been silent in terms of “exposing racists.” She has used her platform of 516.1K Twitter followers to display those who have said racist remarks, most of whom are in high school and college.
On June 5, Jackson posted West Monroe native Dollar yelling the N-word.
Jackson told her followers to contact the University, saying “He wants to be in the medical field...someone like him shouldn’t be able to attend college.” The post received thousands of likes and retweets. She later counseled universities to not only “look into” the students being portrayed as racist, but to “do the work.”
Underneath Jackson’s post of Dollar, Twitter users revealed Reynold’s history of repeatedly using racial slurs on his personal Twitter account. Alumni, incoming and current students of the University urged the administration to take action against Dollar and Reynolds.
@LSU Good afternoon, I’m reaching out today to inform you that one of your students named Gavin Reynolds is on social media using racial slurs that I as well as many other African American people on this app as well as other social media platforms. Evidence can be found above.— BLM 🤎🖤✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿 (@KymaniMoultrie) June 5, 2020
Reynolds has since announced to the Reveille he will no longer be attending the University.
“The only thing I wish to say is that I’ve learned a valuable lesson in sensitivity to others,” Reynolds said. “I know that this has been a wake up call for me and I’ve matured even more since this literally and figuratively juvenile post and I have been seeking to educate myself. My deepest apologies to anyone I’ve offended.”
By June 4, @wmhsshaderoom a now deleted Instagram account, had a video circulating Twitter of Dollar saying "F----, I can't do nothing about it. I can't do nothing about it. I mean, if you actually like knew me knew me, you'd know that's not what I actually, like, think. It's literally just like a meme, which is obviously bad. I know that. But I mean yeah, you're right. I can't deny it. Just please have some mercy, yeah, please."
drew dollar. full tuition paid for to LSU. pic.twitter.com/dpiMqSjklx— 𝚕𝚊𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚗🌼 (@laurennowell_) June 4, 2020
Sunday evening, June 7, the University addressed the incidents in a Twitter statement: “To be clear, we at LSU condemn hate and bigotry in any form, including racially incendiary remarks. As a state university, however, we are subject to constitutional limitation on our ability to take action in response to free speech,” the statement read.
The University’s policy on freedom of speech and expression states it is not its proper role to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America and other applicable laws, including ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.
“It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to judge the value of ideas, and to act on those judgments ― not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and civilly contesting those arguments and ideas that they oppose,” the policy reads. “Encouraging members of the University community to engage with each other in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University's educational mission.”
Some of the LSU community questioned whether or not the University was confusing their freedom of expression stance with harassment, calling on the Student Code of Conduct for reference.
The Student Code of Conduct says in section 10.2, Behavioral Misconduct, subsection L, Harassment, "repeated, persistent, severe, or pervasive action directed toward a specific individual or individuals with the intent or effect to harass, harm, or alarm, through oral, written, graphic, physical, or social media contact...which includes but is not limited to making telephone calls, emails, electronic communications, or sending letters or pictures.”
The post caused an uproar throughout the LSU community, where some people called it “embarrassing” and “extremely disappoint[ing]" on Twitter.
A Change.org petition has since been created, calling for Dollar’s acceptance to be rescinded garnered over 4,500 signatures as of Monday evening.
“This is a direct hate crime and a threat to my safety,” wrote Miriam Walters on the petition. “I am a tuition paying student just like him and I should not have to worry about my livelihood because this institution wants to add a number to their student population.”
So embarrassing! This was extremely dismissive. As a graduate of LSU’s School of Social Work program, I am beyond disappointed. https://t.co/w5lciULaRe— Meci 💕✨ (@mecikayy) June 8, 2020
embarrassing— christa moran (@christalame) June 7, 2020
Media Relations director Ernie Ballard referred the Reveille to the University’s statement regarding derogatory and racist speech: “In recent days, we have been made aware of derogatory and racist social media posts by current students, incoming freshmen or other members of the campus community.
“...Although we cannot comment on individual complaints, let it be known that conduct by a member of the LSU community that is found in violation of our policies will be addressed. Let it be known that LSU denounces racist speech. We stand together for equality and justice, and we condemn racism in any form.”
What if he were a black man who screamed, “ I hate white women”? Suddenly, it would be a public safety issue. But In this case, it’s not. I wonder why that is? https://t.co/bfYWbWQknS— ROBERT MANN (@RTMannJr) June 8, 2020
I’m truly apalled. As a medical student, LSU alumna, and former student leader this is a disgrace to our institution. @LSU needs to act immediately and publicly to remove Drew Dollar and any others who participate in hate speech. A precedent must be set for future tigers. https://t.co/8G2FBueNrJ— Stewart Lockett (@stew_lock) June 5, 2020
Student organization Blackout LSU met with the Faculty Senate, including past and present University Administration and the elect chairman board of supervisors in a Zoom meeting, Monday afternoon, to discuss its disappointment with the University’s statement.
Blackout LSU organizer Gideon Adeyemo said the organization expected the University to release a statement saying it will be investigating the cases regarding racial discrimination and hate speech.
“It was kind of jarring to see a student or an individual that was coming to our university feels very, very confident and comfortable with posting that [video] online,” Adeyemo said. “That’s what really shook us to our core - the possibility of someone with no sentiment was going to be on our campus and possibly engage in activities that could implicate our population.”
“We were ensured that having a comfortable environment on campus is [the University’s] number one priority,” Adeyemo said. “In hearing that, we pushed them for further action, not just for the situation but in all forms of situations across campus that can be seen as victimizing or very prejudice of discriminatory against people of color and all minority individuals as well.”
Blackout LSU is urging University officials to issue an apology as soon as possible for “how the University statement was perceived” and to construct a roadmap and plan of action to work and initiate change on campus and for the LSU community.
The organization will partake in meetings over the next several days to work to enact “changes that are so desperately needed on our campus,”according to Adeyemo. It hopes the University will charge any individual suspected of making racial or discriminatory slurs for any of the population on campus, charged to the full extent that the Student Code of Conduct and Student Advocacy and Accountability Office allows.
Monday evening, LSU released a follow-up statement on Twitter.
"We are sorry our earlier tweet did not effectively communicate our core message and consequently alienated our students and friends," the tweet read. "Today, we met with Black student leaders to pledge again that LSU will investigate and take action against all acts of racism, hostility, harassment and intimidation by students under our code of conduct. We will hold violators accountable."
The statement went onto say that apologies are insufficient, and only demonstrable and sustained action builds trust among students, staff and faculty.
"To accomplish a meaningful change plan, we will meet with these student leaders tomorrow, Wednesday, and as many days as it takes to ensure LSU is a safe, welcoming and inclusive university," the statement read.
We are sorry our earlier tweet did not effectively communicate our core message and consequently alienated our students and friends. (1/4)— LSU (@LSU) June 9, 2020
Interim President Tom Galligan also tweeted that he had a "meaningful and emotional" meeting with black student leaders this afternoon to formulate a plan for concrete changes.
"The is just the start," Galligan wrote. "We hear our students' voices and we will take action."
Together with board and campus leaders, I had a meaningful and emotional meeting with Black student leaders this afternoon to share ideas and plan for concrete steps to make real change at LSU. I am moved by the students’ passion, leadership and vision.— Tom Galligan (@LSUpresident) June 9, 2020
Drew Dollar, LSU Faculty Senate, LSU Office of Diversity, LSU Undergraduate Admissions and LSU Student Advocacy & Accountability could not be reached for comment.