INDIANA, Pa. (KDKA) — A social media post drew strong reactions from Indiana University of Pennsylvania students and faculty, after it appeared to be targeted at African American students.
The picture was posted on the social media network Snapchat, and appeared to show a group of black students with a racial slur as a caption.
“This is unacceptable behavior, period. We need to take steps to make sure that behavior is not tolerated and not going to happen again,” IUP President Dr. Michael Driscoll told students Wednesday night.
“This incident in the last 24 hours is not an isolated incident,” Driscoll said after meeting with a group of several dozen mostly African-American students – talking about steps the school can take to improve race relations on campus, and admitting that the university doesn’t now have enough minority faculty.
Earlier in the day Driscoll released a letter on the school’s website Wednesday morning addressing concerns he has about the atmosphere on campus.
“I believe personally in freedom of speech, and you can say what you want, but it was definitely wrong, it offended people and it was wrong,” a sophomore student said.
“What the most important thing is to maintain the safety of our students and the security of the campus make sure that we are welcoming to all people,” IUP’s Michelle Fryling said.
But many on campus say they don’t feel welcomed, and told KDKA’s Brenda Waters this is not the first act of racism.
“I am not surprised, I’m a 5th year senior and this is not the worst I’ve seen. I’ve been called the N-word,” Tieshay Skinner said.
Because of those concerns, Driscoll says he is planning a series of university-wide dialogues for the spring semester and is appointing a small team to oversee the process.
In the letter he says: “These dialogues will enhance our ability to come together and engage in the difficult discussions we must have to become the place and the people we know we should be and can be.”
Driscoll says during the fall semester he has felt “a growing sense of unease” about how members of the campus community “talk about and treat each other.”
While he says he’s seen examples on campus of compassion and caring, he adds that he’s also seen instances of “name-calling and blaming groups of people for the actions of individuals.”
In the letter he says: “Some have leapt to erroneous conclusions based on rumor and innuendo. Some have responded to insults, intentional or unintentional, with threats and with violence. None of this is acceptable. We can do better.”
Driscoll says his concern “is not about a single incident or some specific sequence of events,” but instead about how the campus is coming together as a community to learn and grow.
He’s also asking the students and campus community to spend their winter break in reflection, and to “treat each other with the respect and compassion appropriate to fellow human beings.”
He goes on to say in the letter: “I recognize, as should you, that the issues I raise cannot be resolved simply or quickly. I remain confident, however, that we can address them as long as we work together.”
To read the full letter, visit the university’s website here.
As for what will happen to the student who posted the photo, IUP says they know who the student is and are following university procedures.