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Editorial: Private profiles don’t protect prejudice

People love to speak their minds, especially on their “private” social media profiles. But what if the content that is posted is troubling, or, like in some recent news, racist? Even though we are not a full month into 2018, incidents of prejudice and hate speech have flooded the media.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 19-year-old Harley Barber, a University of Alabama student, thought it was the perfect time to show her prejudice personality on Instagram for the world to see. Barber uploaded two short videos where she repeated the N-word 15 times.

“These remarks are ignorant and disturbing and in no way reflect the values of The University of Alabama,” Chris Bryant, the university’s spokesman, said in a statement.

Less than a week later, Natalie Martinez, a freshman soccer player at Georgia State University, was suspended from her team after uploading a selfie with the caption “I passed N*******.” Martinez proceeded to drop out instead of confronting her peers or university administration.

Even three years ago, the University of Oklahoma kicked out two fraternity members for leading a racist chant that took the Internet by storm.

We at The Spectator think in each given incident the right decision was made.

It seems this generation is having a hard time understanding that what you say on social media can and will hurt you forever. Schools, employers and lawyers will always have a way of knowing what you post no matter your username. If you feel the dire need to go on a bigoted rampage, just know you are exposing yourself to possible consequences.

But for some the comments are not the issue, rather the college’s decision to condemn the students for exercising their First Amendment.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Director, Ari Cohn, wrote “Barber’s behavior does not qualify as harassing.”

Fortunately, Robert O’Neil, a former president of the University of Virginia and member of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, offered an alternate view: He found Barber’s offense was of such intensity that he could see justification for her expulsion.

Georgia State, Alabama University, Valdosta State and hundreds of other institutions have policies, departments and organizations in place (like the Student Code of Conduct or Office of Social Equity) to ensure a safe and diverse learning experience for all students and staff alike.

Here’s the bottom line: Neither the First Amendment or the private option on Instagram will protect your offensive comments from being reported to your boss, school or peers. Petitions may be signed, and apologies may be made, but the level of punishment is ultimately up to the institution.

If any harassing or derogatory comments have been made in person or electronically to you, do not hesitate to contact VSU’s Office of Social Equity. Hate speech and racial discrimination is unacceptable, and our university should do what is right for the student body while still upholding the legal and ethical rights of every student.

This editorial was written by a member of the editorial staff and expresses the general opinion of The Spectator.

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