This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation.
The academic year is over at Texas A&M University, but the campus is still in an uproar over a clip gone viral of a student repeatedly using racial slurs, the latest in a string of incidents over the last few years where students’ racist rants have been caught on social media.
The roughly 30-second clip shows a white student, apparently drunk, standing in front of a chalkboard holding a beer and delivering a fake biology lesson on race. Using a faux Punnett square, a diagram that shows how dominant and recessive genes are passed down, the student tells the camera how two black parents can birth a child who appears to be white — which the student called a “nigglet.”
The student repeatedly uses the N-word and refers to half-black people as “niggas.”
Two other people appear in the video — one is largely filming the scene and the other makes racist commentary in the background. At least one is a Texas A&M student, according to university statements.
The video, which was recorded on Snapchat, was posted by a Twitter user in June, asking for help to locate the student “so we can bully him.” Since being made public, the clip has been watched more than 350,000 times and retweeted around 1,700 times.
Online commentators were outraged — many called for the student’s expulsion, although his identity hasn’t been confirmed. One woman said she left Texas A&M her first year there because of such racist behavior.
“I had NEVER been called a n***** until I enrolled at A&M. I was … made to feel wholly unwelcome and unwanted,” she wrote.
Another woman wrote that she was confident that the students weren’t misspeaking. She pointed out that when the student in the video had misused a biology term, the one filming it corrected him.
“All of those people in that room and you’re telling me that NOBODY was sober enough to tell him to stop? Y’all were sober enough to correct him on his terminology but couldn’t correct his racism?” she wrote.
When Twitter users tagged the university in their tweets, A&M responded with the same boilerplate line: “This behavior is abhorrent. Thank you for alerting us to it. We have passed this along so Texas A&M officials can look into it.” The university also plugged its portal that allows students to report incidents of hate and bias.
The student issued a written apology, according to local TV station KBTX-TV, which referenced the student anonymously.
The statement reads: “A video of myself that I am extremely ashamed of was released over the weekend. My state of mind while the video was made last week in no way excuses my words or actions. In hindsight, I realize what I said and did was wrong and very hurtful to many. I also realize that I have to do work within myself. I am extremely sorry from the bottom of my heart, as this is not who I was raised to be and not who I want to be. I cannot begin to understand but will work to be more aware of the pain these words cause people. I am deeply sorry.”
A university official confirmed that the student is still enrolled for the fall semester.
Texas A&M president Michael K. Young, emailed the campus on July 1 to say that the episode was “against the core values that we share and to which we aspire in all we do, including those of respect, excellence and integrity.”
Young said that the incident will be investigated by the Student Conduct office, but said any punishments would not be public, citing federal privacy laws. He said, “Those found responsible will be held accountable.”
“Throughout our campus, there are so many Aggies representing the best of who we are in serving, loving and respecting each other. Incidents like this hit us at our core. To be clear, those who champion those beliefs represented in this video are not welcomed at Texas A&M University,” Young said in his statement.
Neither Texas A&M’s student government nor its Black Student Alliance has made public statements on the video. The groups did not respond to request for comment.
What action the university could take is unclear. Public institutions generally do not punish students for speech that is hateful, but protected, though there have been exceptions. Notably, David Boren, the former president of the University of Oklahoma, said he would expel fraternity members in 2015 after they were recorded singing a racist chant.
The Texas A&M conduct code describes “racial and ethnic harassment,” but to qualify, “behaviors must include something beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that some person finds offensive.”
“The conduct must also be sufficiently serious to deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program and/or experience,” the rules state.
This is at least the third incident this year where students’ prejudices have been captured on social media. At American University, which has grappled with racist episodes for years, a student used the N-word on camera and justified it by saying it’s acceptable to use any word.
And again at the University of Oklahoma, two students voluntarily left the school after a video showing them spouting racial slurs in blackface spread across the campus.