The Dean of Students' Response to Racist Social Media

June 4, 2020

We do not condone the behavior of any member of our community who spews hatred that causes harm, negatively impacts our community and the reputation of the University of Arizona, yet we will always demonstrate professionalism and compassion in our daily work.

To the many people who reported a University of Arizona student and her mother regarding racist and repulsive social media posts, I thank you. Please understand that due to the sheer volume of reports (nearly 500+), COVID-19 efforts, and active preparation for the Fall semester re-entry of our community, we are unable to respond to each report; however, we are reviewing your inquiries for any new information.

Why did this particular incident elicit action from hundreds of individuals? Perhaps you watched the nearly 9-minute, slow death of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis. Perhaps you watched the fury and feeling of helplessness by communities across America and abroad. Maybe the social media post where the student and her mother used a racial epithet and her subsequent double-down when people critiqued her behavior. Whatever drove you to report this awful act, I thank you for using your voice and demonstrating your care for the Wildcat community.

Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of our country, and while our speech is protected by the First Amendment, there are consequences for our speech. We honor the privacy (FERPA) of the student records; however, this student’s consequences are:

  • The multitude of responses to her posts
  • The digital footprint that will forever remain intact
  • The local Sigma Kappa chapter is following their expulsion process to remove her membership

The Dean of Students Office treats our students with dignity despite disturbing choices and ideology, as we believe in providing support, guidance and reflection. Our approach is developmental in nature and we recognize this may not sit well with some, yet our approach requires empathy.

Institutions of higher education regularly state, “This behavior is not reflective of or in line with our core values,” and while aspirational, the truth is that we have members of our community who do not align with or have an alternative interpretation of our core values. Our role is not to indoctrinate students, but we expect critical thinking, a thirst for knowledge, and recognize the grey that life presents us.

I am pleased that so many sounded the alarm regarding these hurtful acts, yet in the end, the question becomes “Now that you reported these acts, how will you channel that energy to action, to embrace America’s history, to volunteer with social justice organizations, and join and/or create a club on campus and in your communities?”

In Solidarity,

Kendal Washington White
Vice Provost, Campus Life and Dean of Students