By Stephanie Southey
COLUMBIA, Missouri (KOMU) — An MU student who sent a racist Snapchat in December will not face discipline, the university announced Monday.
A screenshot of the Snapchat post began circulating on social media in early December. It showed the student’s face and contained a racial slur directed toward Black people.
MU said its Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) and Office of Student Accountability and Support (OSAS) conducted a “thorough review,” which examined the origin and context around the message. The reviews found the university has no grounds to discipline the student, citing First Amendment protections.
“First Amendment law does not allow a public university to punish speech only because it is racist or hateful – even when that speech is diametrically opposed to our values,” MU President Mun Choi said. “Our university community will not be defined by the actions of one individual, but instead by our deep and collective commitment to be welcoming to all.”
MU spokesperson Christian Basi said the university started the review once it became aware of the social media message.
“We had our Office of Institutional Equity, begin the review, and they interviewed over 60 people, both some who had been impacted by it, and others who knew the student,” Basi said.
The OIE and OSAS said they found the slur was “expressed in a direct message to her friend and was not communicated in a way that harassed any individual.”
“It’s not just about the language, it was about the entire context of the situation, which did not rise to the level of the harassment or threatening situation, because the student in question, sent the message only to a friend,” Basi said. “And it was an extenuating circumstance, which led to that message being posted not by that student, but by someone else on social media.”
Choi said therefore, the speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Because we are a public institution, constrained by the First Amendment, OIE and OSAS concluded the university has no grounds to discipline the student who sent the message, even though it is diametrically opposed to our values,” Choi said.
Choi said the university “has and will take action when individuals are subjected to harassment that violates our rules prohibiting discipline.”
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