A video that surfaced on Twitter Monday evening, depicting several white Ohio University students repeating a racial slur in a dorm room, has prompted outrage, including among African-American students at the university, as well as attention from the OU administration.
In the video, which appears to have originated on Snapchat, several apparently female students are seen in a dorm room repeating the words of a popular Vine video: “One, two, three, four, how many (N-word) are in my store?”
A comment that can be seen along the bottom of the video states: "Enjoy me new hair and my drunk friends."
The video was shared in a Tweet by Maurice Swift, an OU sophomore studying chemistry pre-medicine, who stated: “This is unacceptable, and as a minority at Ohio University this makes the community feel unwelcomed and unsafe. Something must be done, and our voices must be heard.”
In a Tweet responding to the video, Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones stated, “I want everyone to know that I’m aware of the racial incident that went public last night, and I’m appreciative of all who were outraged and did something by bringing it to our attention. I can see and hear the hurt that this incident has caused.
“This type of behavior is never acceptable on our campus or in our community,” Hall-Jones continued in another Tweet. “I encourage us all to reflect on our own biases, stereotypes and critique our own behaviors moving forward. We are better than this.”
Under Hall-Jones’ Tweet, one person responded “‘racial’ doesn’t mean anything. Call it like it is: racist.”
Hall-Jones responded: “Good point. It was racist and a racist incident.”
Ohio University’s main Twitter account also responded to the video (both the OU account and Hall-Jones were tagged in the comments under Swift’s Tweet).
“Thank you for tagging us,” The OU account responded. “We are disappointed that this happened. This behavior contradicts OHIO’s values, and the proper departments are looking into this post.”
In response to questions from The NEWS regarding the university’s process for handling the incident, OU spokesperson Carly Leatherwood provided the following statement:
“Racism in any form is not tolerated at Ohio University. We are aware of the racist post that is circulating on social media, and the appropriate offices on campus have reached out to students who have expressed concern as well as to the student who made the post.
“There is a process in place to determine if the student code of conduct has been violated,” Leatherwood continued, “and in addition, there is an opportunity to provide education related to the importance of equality. The Division of Student Affairs and Division for Diversity and Inclusion are available to provide resources and support to anyone with concerns about this incident.”
Several individuals, some likely OU students, responded with disapproval in the comments section of Swift’s Tweet. The Ohio University Black Student Cultural Programming Board’s Twitter account re-tweeted the video with a statement: “We are disappointed by the injustice of this current situation. Everyone should feel welcome here at OU & not offended or belittled. We hope at @ohiou plans to take action & also speak out on the situation. Furthermore standing strong behind the minority community here on campus.”
In comments made to The Athens NEWS Tuesday morning, Swift stated, “The minorities at OU are not at all satisfied with the automated replies of Ohio University via Twitter. We actually want action to be taken, and want to end incidents such as these. People need to remember that there are consequences that come with their actions, and as adults we need to realize this.”
Ohio University Student Senate President Maddie Sloat and President-Elect Lydia Ramlo on Tuesday released a statement in response to the incident, also calling for administrative action. “On behalf of Ohio University’s Student Senate, we condemn this discriminatory behavior and stand with our constituents calling on the university to take disciplinary action,” the response states. “…These actions not only hurt people of color on this campus but also break down the Bobcat community we strive to create on this campus every day. We all have a role to play in holding our peers accountable…
“That being said,” the statement continues, “this incident demonstrates the need for increased cultural competency at OHIO.” The statement points out that this incident is “far from the first example of discrimination and hatefulness” on OU’s campus, and calls for “more dedicated programming regarding cultural competency” at the university.
In the comments under Swift’s tweet, the student most prominently featured in the video is identified as Sierra Jenice (a Twitter handle). One reply to the Tweet shows a screenshot of a tweet from the person who identifies as Jenice, simply stating, “It’s a vine” (referring to a defunct social-media app that created very short videos, many of which remain online). An apology that was allegedly posted by Jenice on social media, which states that she and her friends were drunk and regret sharing the video, since has been deleted, along with the student’s former Twitter account.
Much of the discussion under Swift’s Tweet reflected his comments Tuesday morning, centering around the premise that action should be taken and that the student in the video should face consequences.
Many of the comments, however, expressed doubt that the university would take action. Another Twitter user who replied to Hall-Jones’ Tweet stated: “A statement is not enough. (O)ur administration needs to DO something. (T)hey hold all the power for students that are racist or sexually violent to be disciplined yet they continually disappoint their students.”
Numerous other tweets poke fun at the student in the video, with memes and images of her, which may be one reason why her Twitter account was deleted.
The original Vine video, which was also posted in the comments of Swift’s Tweet, depicts several young African-American men in what looks like a convenience store saying: “One, two, three, four, how many (N-word) are in my store?” At the end of the video, the Vine shows a white (or fair-skinned) store clerk who looks displeased with the men, possibly because of the Vine they were filming.
The person who shared the original Vine said in a follow-up tweet: “On a macro scale, we gotta understand our influence on culture and know that white people are going to repeat what we do. Once again, none of this excuses the video the girls made.”
Some in the comments on Twitter (and even later on The Athens NEWS Facebook page) questioned why it was problematic for the student to use the n-word as she was just repeating language from another video. One person, the same person who shared the original Vine video, even argued that the original video was just as problematic for different reasons.
Swift posted a reply, stating: “This was not her first time using the N word. This is unacceptable…”