College campuses experiences differ in aftermath of racial incidents

Megan Robinson, Staff Writer

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This semester the Columbia College campus was altered by a social media post that brought racial tension and the importance of sisterhood to the forefront.

On Sept. 28, three freshman girls posted to Snapchat a picture of themselves in charcoal face masks with the caption: “drink the (explicit) koolaid.”

“I Just couldn’t believe I went to school with people that thought that was funny. I know that Snapchat is popular because the pictures don’t last forever but this shows you that no matter what social media platform, some things don’t go away,” Jessica Landsberry, junior biology major, said.

Kool-aid is often seen as a black stereotype. The caption was also in reference to the Jonestown mass murder/suicide that happened in Guyana in 1978, where 909 people drank Kool-aid laced with cyanide.

“I felt really embarrassed even though I didn’t do anything. I felt embarrassed because I went to school here, and it was all over the news, not just locally,” Brianna Rens, senior dance education major, said.

Following the social media post, the three girls were escorted off campus while the college completed an internal judicial investigation.

“Students are not allowed to be on campus during a judicial investigation. It can sometimes cause conflict and it is better to just avoid that at all costs,” Monique McDaniels, former Columbia College executive director of marketing and communications, said.  

President Elizabeth Dinndorf also released a statement saying in part that “The acts of a few do not define who we are as a College and a Community. All members of our community, including the students involved, will be held accountable for their individual actions.”

In the days that followed, the college’s Multicultural Affairs Committee hosted several open forums where students and faculty could talk freely.

One of the students involved voluntarily withdrew from the college prior to the judiciary process concluding, and the two remaining students voluntarily withdrew from the college after the decision was rendered by the college’s judicial officer, according to a letter to the campus community from Dinndorf.

Just last year, the University of South Carolina faced a similar challenge. A student was suspended from the school after a photo on social media went viral. The photo showed the student writing a list on the whiteboard with a marker. The list, entitled, “Why USC WiFi Blows” contained a racial slur.

This photo, like the blackface photo, also originated on Snapchat.

Harris Pastides, USC president, released a statement, and the school quickly began a code of conduct investigation. The student ultimately decided to withdraw before the investigation concluded, according to WOLO.

“We started to have more multicultural events on campus as a result of the post last year. But a couple months later, it stopped and it was like it never happened,” Darrian Bird said.

Bird is a senior anthropology major at USC.

Last month, a display of 18 black figures was found hanging outside of Winthrop University’s Tillman Hall. Winthrop police officers found numerous black stockings that had been hung from a tree beside the building, according to The Charlotte Observer. The stockings were filled with dirt and mulch. Pictures of the figures floated around social media when they were discovered around 4:45 am.

A group called Association of Artists for Change took responsibility and called the display “protest art,” meant to inspire conversation about the history behind the building’s name.

This is the third time Tillman Hall has been vandalized this year. Tillman Hall has also been the site of protests against police violence and to change the name of the building.

Tillman, a noted white supremacist who advocated lynching any black who tried to vote, served as South Carolina governor and as a U.S. senator from 1890-1918, according to The Charlotte Post.

The United States has seen a surge in student activism amid escalating tensions over hostile racial climates on several college campuses, according to The Atlantic.

Incidents and protests on college campuses have multiplied in the past year, according to Inside Higher Ed.

“While racism and violence against black bodies aren’t new, I think that social media and technology are forcing people who may have thought that people were making up or overstating their experiences to actually see what is happening,” Kimberly A. Griffin, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Maryland, said.

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