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Auburn won’t say if black students will be punished for anti-white slurs

Civil liberties group says university should examine how its campus culture might promote a ‘divisive campus culture’

Auburn University officials have refused to share any substantial updates on an investigation they launched four months ago after some black students posted anti-white racial slurs in a group chat allegedly associated with the school’s Black Student Union.

When asked for an update, the university refused to provide even general information without any identifiers about the suspects.

The College Fix asked Auburn University if it could provide a general update on any punishments given out even if the school could not share individual names of those under investigation.

“Auburn University does not comment on individual student conduct cases,” Auburn’s Director of Communications Preston Sparks told The Fix via email on May 8. “Beyond the statement we sent out in February, [this] is the only other statement we will be issuing on the matter.”

The university originally told The Fix back in February that the school’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Employment had been investigating the situation since January.

“Administrators have since learned that the GroupMe chat in question is titled ‘AU Connect: Brought to you by The Throwdown’ and includes hundreds of people from multiple universities,” spokesperson Jennifer Adams told The Fix in February. “These comments did not occur on the Black Student Union GroupMe nor as part of any recognized Auburn University organization channel.

The members of the messaging group shared a document that listed hundreds of derogatory names for white people, including “yeast maggots” and “decomposing form of humanity.”

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A nonprofit civil liberties and free speech group told The Fix that the university’s administrators should use this as an opportunity to address school policies that create a “divisive campus culture.”

“This situation provides a good opportunity for faculty, staff, and administrators to discontinue policies or practices which might contribute to a divisive campus culture,” Stephanie Guerra, managing director of education at the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, told The Fix via email on May 9.

“[The administrators] should consider offering activities and messages that affirm the humanity of all students and encourage students to see each other as unique individuals rather than members of identity groups,” Guerra said.

“Individuation, or seeing others as individuals, is one of the most powerful deterrents to racism,” she said.

Guerra also explained how important it is that school officials disassociate from the idea that only one group can perpetuate racism.

“University leadership should reject the dangerous notion that racism is the purview of only one group and that other groups are exempt,” Guerra said.

“Racism harms both victims and perpetrators, and the students who contributed to this list are demonstrating vulnerability to a deeply destructive mindset,” she said. “Strikingly, a number of the dehumanizing epithets on this list have been used before in pre-genocidal contexts.”

Guerra concluded by highlighting the need to conform to the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. by standing against violence and hatred.

“Dr. Martin Luther King taught us to fight against hateful rhetoric and stand united as humans,” Guerra said.

“In dealing with incidents of hate and bias, FAIR encourages a review of Dr. King’s Principles of Nonviolence,” she said. “Above all, we must resist hatred and see each other as human beings.”

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IMAGE: JadenHeard/1819 News

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Jack Applewhite -- University of Georgia