The president of North Dakota State University has offered an apology to the campus community and proposed a “plan of action” to help fight campus racism.
President Dean Bresciani suffered the wrath of student activists who, in early December, had demanded more action against racist hate speech.
Bresciani’s response to a racist Snapchat incident was called “completely unacceptable” and “horrible” by at least one student.
Not helping Bresciani’s case with the activists — despite it being 100 percent correct — was his pointing out that the university is limited by the First Amendment as to what sanctions it can mete out.
“As I reflect on the past two weeks, I personally offer my apologies to the students, faculty and staff who have been deeply harmed,” Bresciani wrote in his recent email. He then noted several ways in which NDSU is working to “improve the campus climate”:
— The school has hired an “external consultant” to “ensure that NDSU is being consistent with all best national [equity] practices.”
— A task force was created to “develop actionable items” on the diversity and inclusion front.
— The Student Code of Conduct will be reviewed using an “equity, inclusion and innovation” lens.
— Students will be required to take “diversity and cultural competency training” beginning next year.
Bresciani’s recent comments and actions come in the wake of emailed threats which accused him of being an “anti-white political operative.” The Dickinson Press reports the emails were signed by a “NDSU European-American Student Union.” It’s unknown if such a group actually exists.
A step requested by the campus chapter of Black Lives Matter to add a person of color to the task force has been completed as NDSU Black Student Association President Kayla Jones joined the group.
Meanwhile, a member of the BLM campus chapter responded to Brescani’s latest email in a phone interview Wednesday.
Olivia Laven said she thought the email laid out a “good foundation,” but she said she wants to see what policy changes are really going to be made.
As for the students who made the social media posts, Laven said she realizes the university likely isn’t going to release the punishment. If there was a “clear policy” for when a student makes such a racially charged video or for hate speech, she added, then people would know if the student was suspended, expelled or otherwise reprimanded.
“We’re excited about the possible changes, though,” Laven, who is a senior, said. However, she emphasized wanting to see a follow-up on the matters.
The Press notes federal courts “have upheld ‘hate speech’ as a constitutional right,” but that “punishment by institutions and businesses can still be carried out.” This is correct; however, at public institutions — again, as President Bresciani said himself — punishments are quite constrained.
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