UPUA, Black Caucus, Penn State NAACP Call For Change To University’s Code Of Conduct

Penn State student leaders are calling on the university to change its Student Code of Conduct following recent alleged incidents of students using hate speech.

Representatives from the University Park Undergraduate Association, Penn State Black Caucus, and Penn State NAACP chapter issued a statement Monday to President Eric Barron and leaders of the Office of Student Conduct urging them to amend the code to further punish hate speech.

“According to the Office of Student Conduct, the racial slurs and symbols that these Penn State students have used were not deemed ‘severe’ or ‘pervasive’ enough to be considered violations of the Student Code of Conduct,” they wrote. “An empty statement of fifty-six unactionable words only conveys that students can use abhorrent language against marginalized communities while facing no substantive repercussions.”

Last week, Penn State issued a brief statement acknowledging it doesn’t have the power to expel students over hate speech as a public university. As you could imagine, the announcement was met with stark criticism from Twitter users.

“The use of racist and dangerous behavior fosters an unsafe environment for marginalized communities at Penn State, and it should not be simply condemned,” the student leaders continued. “If these hostile actions are not found to violate the Student Code of Conduct, then the Student Code of Conduct has failed us, the student body.”

The letter, written by UPUA President Zach McKay, UPUA Vice President Lexy Pathickal, Black Caucus President Nyla Holland, and Penn State NAACP Randi Youboty, added Penn State made a commitment to “foster and maintain a safe environment of respect and inclusion for faculty, staff, students, and members of the communities [they] serve” but failed to adequately do so.

“We demand that the Office of Student Conduct meet our concerns,” the student government leaders wrote. “Systemic change is urgently needed at this institution, and changing the Code of Conduct is one fundamental way to improve Penn State’s ability to hold students accountable and keep marginalized students safe.”

Penn State replied to the statement and said its Office of Student Affairs will work with student leaders to review its conduct policies.

Additionally, the student leaders included phone numbers and email addresses for the Office of Student Conduct and Barron’s office in the statement. They encouraged students to use #ChangeTheCode on social media and reach out to administrators to show support for the movement.

Last week, a Penn State student was recorded allegedly using hate speech and racial slurs at a rally in Pennsylvania. Although his father is facing a charge of ethnic intimidation and several misdemeanors, the student hasn’t received discipline from Penn State at this time.

A different student received heavy criticism after an image of her wearing a drawn-on swastika surfaced on Twitter. Penn State responded to the tweet, calling it “deeply disturbing” and “sickening,” while THON issued a statement of its own condemning the act.

We’ll update this post with more information as it becomes available.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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