Administration Calls for Civility After Hateful Social Media Posts

Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones and Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims sent an email to the Penn State community this morning expressing “dismay and frustration” at hateful messages posted to social media after the die-in protest staged in the HUB yesterday to raise awareness about Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo.

The letter is pretty clearly directed at racist comments posted on Yik Yak, though Jones and Sims don’t name any sites in particular. Students last night announced a second die-in to be held in front of Old Main at 12:30 p.m. today in response to the backlash from yesterday’s demonstration.

This is the second time this semester the administration in Old Main has asked Penn Staters to treat each other with civility and respect.

The litany of hateful, racist, and insensitive comments from Penn Staters on Facebook, Twitter, and even our story on the protest demonstrate a clear lack of respect for the students’ right to assemble. Racism has no place here at Penn State, or anywhere for that matter. The next time you say “We Are,” ask yourself what it really means.

The full letter can be read below:

To Our University Community:

We are writing to express our dismay and frustration at the language used in postings to social media by some individuals criticizing Penn State students who staged a peaceful protest in the HUB yesterday to raise awareness about the deeply troubling events in Ferguson, Missouri. The lack of civility and respect evident in the many posts is disappointing, and counter to the values we embrace as a diverse community of scholars and citizens.

As leaders in this institution, we condemn hate speech and expressions of racism in any form. And as members of a learning community, we accept and embrace a wide range of opinions, seek diverse viewpoints that will challenge us to think broadly, and value perspectives that may be different from our own. We ask all members of our community to do the same.

While hateful words may be protected speech, they cause deep and senseless frustration and hurt, raise tensions, and in so doing, diminish our community. Let us all contribute to a more just and tolerant society. Civility is vital to any expression, and its absence only creates deeper divides among us.


Nicholas P. Jones
Executive Vice President and Provost

Damon Sims
Vice President for Student Affairs

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About the Author

Melissa McCleery

Melissa is a senior majoring in Women’s Studies, Political Science, and Spanish. In the little free time she has, Melissa likes to cook, spend all her money at The Phyrst, and add to her collection of blue and white striped clothing. She can be reached via Twitter (@mkmccleery) or email ([email protected]).

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