On a GroupMe message page designated for the class of 2021, several individuals used racial slurs. This has become a source of controversy and tension. In the chat, several individuals made explicitly racist and derogatory remarks targeting the black community.
These messages sparked a strong response by campus activist group “Students 4 Justice,” who are requesting that these prospective students have their offers of admission revoked.
Given the history of American race relations, racism is generally a very sensitive topic for the public. Furthermore, given the recent racially-charged election, there has been much more of a societal focus on racism and hate crimes. Our campus hosted a vigil and safe spaces for those who felt traumatized by the outcome of the election, for example.
Given the current racial tension in the country and the university’s attempt to be more inclusive, I believe that the individuals should be punished.
I am not a sensitive or politically correct person. Edgy jokes that aren’t meant to offend should not warrant a major consequence, but this was not of that nature. These comments intended to offend and attack entire swaths of the American population. I would be more willing to forgive if the comment was said only once. However, racial slurs were repeated multiple times in the GroupMe, even after the individuals were told that it was highly offensive.
Instead of framing this as a battle against racism, I will frame it as a values issue. In the University’s Code of Conduct, it states that bullying or harassment by verbal or physical means is contradictory to the values of the university and is grounds for expulsion. The University should maintain the right to deny entry into the school based on a violation of those values.
Although I believe that punishing the students is the right way to go, I still have apprehensions. Have no doubt that these prospective students are not the only racists that will be on campus next year. There are undoubtedly racist students already on Michigan’s campus right now. There are racists all over the country and all over the world.
So at what point are we going to stop the witch hunt on racists? Racism is a universal reality. Prejudice and discrimination have existed for as long as civilization has, and no amount of SJW investigations or useless diversity training is going to end it.
If we really want to build a class and university with intelligent, responsible, and decent people, we cannot just deny students for being racist. I believe that racist prospective students should be allowed to enroll at the university under the condition that they spend a semester working with and participating in the Black Student Union. Vicious racism like this usually comes from a lack of knowledge and experience with those different than you. Those who have significant and meaningful exposure to those of a different race usually harbor less prejudice than those who don’t. Although this world may never completely eradicate racism, we can do our best to minimize it.