Missouri State responds to students' 'racially charged' social media posts
In the 14-second smartphone video, a girl clad in a sports bra and shorts kneels near the neck of a girl lying on a couch, while pushing down her head. Both are laughing. The video was captioned: "Aw ging can't breathe."
Missouri State was repeatedly targeted in social media messages referencing the video — viewed more than 681,000 times — by Twitter users who alleged at least one of the teenagers was a current or incoming student.
One person on Twitter asked: "Is this the kind of student we want on our campus?" And another said "look at one of your students...mocking the death of George Floyd. Is this what your school stands for?????"
The university responded to this incident, and another involving a racial slur and racially insensitive language, during the weekend on Twitter.
Regarding the video, MSU stated: "We are aware of the video. The university does not condone treating the loss of human life with disrespect. We are handling this privately through disciplinary channels."
MSU PresidentClif Smart released a lengthy statement Monday acknowledging a series of "racially charged situations and tragic deaths" across the U.S. including, recently, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
He also named Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Christian Cooper in New York City.
"We have seen in recent days how this has touched Springfield and the Missouri State campus as we witness civil protests taking place across the city," Smart wrote. "We have also recently experienced on our own campus the impact of racially charged posts on social media made by incoming freshmen."
In a post, a student mocked the phrase "black girl magic" used by a woman celebrating her graduation. The student later used a racial slur.
Smart vowed to address the social media posts in a separate message Tuesday. The News-Leader has not verified the identity of the current or incoming students allegedly involved in the posts.
Smart pointed to the three pillars of MSU's public affairs mission: ethical leadership, cultural competence and community engagement.
"Racism is abhorrent and wrong. It is inconsistent with the values we embrace and try to model. We condemn it in all its insidious forms, and it is not welcome at Missouri State," Smart wrote Monday. "Racism is deeply rooted in our country, and I think we can all agree it won’t be eliminated overnight. This is work that requires a sustained, long-term commitment, and that is where the pillars of public affairs come into play."
Smart said it's not uncommon for students to "arrive on the Missouri State campus with little exposure to cultural differences," and the university works to instill the "value and meaning of diversity of thought and culture."
"I am saddened and appalled by the tragic deaths we have seen over the last weeks and months. Our goal as a university is to create a safe learning environment for all of our students that is free of racism and threats," he wrote.
In the post, Smart said a top priority for the university is fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.
"Toward that end, we will continue to focus on recruiting and retaining diverse students, faculty and staff. We will also continue to educate our campus constituents about cultural consciousness, and work to ensure that diverse viewpoints and perspectives are heard," he wrote.
"That being said, our past efforts aren’t enough. Our work is not complete. Eliminating the scourge of racism will require all of us, working together, and putting the ideals of our public affairs mission into practice. Together, we can make a difference."