A Penn State student was recently captured on camera wearing a Penn State shirt and shouting a racial slur. In the video, the student follows up repeated shouts of the N word, saying, “If you’re offended, suck my d***.” The video was spotted by Penn State student Seun Babalola, who shared it on Twitter and implored the university to act.
“Her name is Jasmine Barkley. This is my university. Penn State. Beyond ridiculous. @penn_state y’all already know the deal. Just do your thing,” Babalola wrote. The tweet quickly went viral.
Penn State’s embrace of diversity & inclusion, and opposition to prejudice & hate, are clear. We condemn racist messages, as they are hateful and violate our institutional values. We cannot, however, impose sanctions for Constitutionally protected speech, no matter how offensive.
— Penn State (@penn_state) April 22, 2018
Babalola later corrected himself, pointing out that the woman in the video was actually Kaitlin Listro, a supply-chain management major at Penn State. He also shared a second video in which Listro repeats the slur while her friend Jasmine Barkley defends the use of the slur, pointing out that it appears in some song lyrics.
Penn State released a statement about the video via the university’s official Twitter handle. The statement, which was labeled a “message from university leaders,” said that the school “shares the outrage and disgust expressed on social media and beyond regarding the use of a racial slur by a student on her personal social media account.” The school’s Office of Student Conduct is investigating the matter, the statement said.
“The inclusion and safety of all of our students is paramount,” the statement continued. “It is deeply troubling that as a society, we today are still facing racism. We must uphold our values, and Penn State is increasingly focusing on how to address and educate our students on the impact of hateful messages and actions.”
Penn State later responded directly to Babalola on Twitter with this message: “Penn State’s embrace of diversity & inclusion, and opposition to prejudice & hate, are clear. We condemn racist messages, as they are hateful and violate our institutional values. We cannot, however, impose sanctions for Constitutionally protected speech, no matter how offensive.”
People were not impressed by the response:
In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance. #WeAre gonna fix it, right?
— Chikodili Agwuna ™ (@chikiguna) April 22, 2018
Penn State when employees are abusing kids or students are being racist: pic.twitter.com/roWjhCxloM
— Kno (@Kno) April 22, 2018
Racism ending starts with a little discipline don’t ya think PSU?
— 2Z1ggy (@2Z1ggy) April 22, 2018
My daughter is college searching. @penn_state is effectively removed from the list. Our family believes that students need a code of conduct to protect themselves and each other, and require direction and guidance where necessary. Hard pass for Penn.
— CallingYouOut (@CallinYouOnIt) April 23, 2018
it’s really not that freaking difficult to just not use the n word but here we are pic.twitter.com/x9q82LGqRX
— Camey (@cameylconover) April 22, 2018
Kaitlin… hun… there’s no need to question if you can say it no matter the context. If people of color refrain from saying it, you definitely shouldn’t be saying it.
— will (@GatlingWilliam) April 24, 2018
Babalola tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he wasn’t exactly surprised by the videos, pointing out that he has seen so many that he is “desensitized” to them. “It shows there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” he says.
Babalola calls the university’s initial response “disappointing” and “not adequate” and says the response to his tweet from the university that cited First Amendment rights is “not really helping or reassuring anybody.” Instead of the statements that the university released, Babalola says he wishes the school would have denounced the videos and then offered information on how to report bias as well as where to go if people want counseling on the issue.
Lisa Powers, the senior director of news and media relations at Penn State, tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement that the school is investigating the incident. “As a matter of longstanding practice and to protect student confidentiality, we do not divulge details or outcomes related to any investigation by the Office of Student Conduct,” she added.
Babalola says he hopes by sharing the video that he can further the conversation about racism in the United States. “There are a lot of movements and actions going on,” he says. “It’s very important that people continue to talk about it, share videos, and get the word out.”
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