More than a dozen colleges have revoked admissions offers to students who posted racist sentiments on social media in recent days, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Arizona Christian University, the College of Charleston, and the University of Denver were among the schools that acted swiftly to kick out incoming students who posted racist reactions to the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers.
Typical is the case of the former rising freshman at Marquette University who wrote “Some ppl think it’s ok to fucking kneel during the national anthem so it’s ok to kneel on someone’s head” in a Snapchat post, referencing the manner of Floyd’s death. After an investigation, the university rescinded both her admission offer and her lacrosse scholarship.
“As a Catholic, Jesuit institution, we are called to build a nurturing, inclusive community where all people feel safe, supported, welcomed and celebrated,” the school wrote in a statement announcing the decision.
Another Jesuit institution, Xavier University in Cincinnati, revoked an offer of admission after alumni wrote letters to university leaders protesting an incoming student’s social media posts, which used the n-word and referred to protestors as “thugs.”
There may have been an uptick in these situations in the wake of Floyd’s death, but they’re not the first of their kind. Last summer, Harvard revoked an admissions offer to Kyle Kashuv, a Parkland student at conservative activist, after finding racial slurs in messages he’d written as a high school student.
All of these cases involve private universities, which have more latitude to revoke admissions offers based on racist speech, as public universities are forced to confront thorny First Amendment issues.
Missouri State University president Clif Smart wrote that when he saw racist content from an incoming student he was “horrified” and that his first instinct was to block these students from attending, but it’s one that he was unable to follow through on.
“As a public university we are legally required to uphold the principles of free speech embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The video – as hurtful, insensitive and offensive as it is – is protected by the First Amendment, as was the language in the social media posts.”
The students in question ended up withdrawing from the school of their own volition, sparing Smart and his university of a difficult situation in the fall.
The swiftness with which these schools have acted shows that the desire to create environments in which their students, particularly those of color, feel safe is paramount. And while they might feel as though their lives have been ruined by losing their spot in college, there’s an argument to be made that these schools are also doing a service to their now-former future students.
If they didn’t face serious consequences for their actions, how would these young people learn that posting racist nonsense to their social media accounts is a seriously awful thing to do? What impetus would they have to reflect on their actions and do things differently in the future?
Kicking these kids out of school won’t solve systemic racism, but it does feel like making publicly spouting racist invective a disqualifying factor for prospective college students is a step in the right direction.