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University Responds To Racist Video Posted On Social Media

Penn State released a statement on Twitter Tuesday responding to a video of “the use of a racial slur by a student” that was posted on social media over the weekend.

The “message from university leaders” says Penn State shares the outrage and disgust students have expressed about the video, and that the Office of Student Conduct is investigating the incident. It reiterates inclusion and safety are paramount, and that racism is strongly against Penn State’s values.

The videos including the racial slur were originally posted to Snapchat and Instagram by Jasmine Barkley, who isn’t a student at Penn State and attends William Paterson University in New Jersey.

Seun Babalola, a Penn State student and UPUA representative, reposted the videos on Twitter Sunday calling for Penn State to respond.

Babalola was later able to identify Barkley (who appears in the second video) and the second individual (who appeared in the first video and the back of the second video), who he said is Kaitlin Listro, a supply chain major at Penn State.

Penn State initially responded Sunday afternoon saying the university cannot “impose sanctions for Constitutionally protected speech, no matter how offensive,” but condemns racist messages like those expressed in the videos.

The William Paterson student was removed from her sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, according to WPU’s student newspaper, The Beacon. The Beacon also reported Barkley was recently elected to serve as vice president of the university’s Greek Senate.

Barkley released an “open letter”-style statement Monday, first saying she believes in “equality and respect among all” but later saying, “The black race has been fighting against segregation for a long time, yet the divide of who can use the n-word only creates more segregation.”

It’s unknown whether either of the individuals in the videos will face disciplinary action directly from their respective universities, but both have said they are investigating the incidents. Babalola also said Listro was a member of Alpha Chi Omega, which lost recognition earlier this semester, and brought the video to the attention of her apparent future employer, Becton Dickinson. The company responded but did not indicate specific action it might take against Listro.

Penn State Student Body President Cody Heaton weighed in on the situation Sunday night, saying the student body will not tolerate hate-fueled words like those used in the video.

The College Democrats released a similar statement, calling for Penn State administrators to “change course” in their decision and citing other universities that have recently disciplined students for racist speech.

The institutions reference in the College Dems post  — University of Alabama and University of Oklahoma — have both expelled students for hateful messaging. These incidents and other like them have sparked a national debate over free speech as it relates to hate speech, specifically on college campuses.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa is a senior public relations major and the managing editor of Onward State. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Send questions and comments via e-mail ([email protected]) and follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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