FAYETTEVILLE -- The student who posted an image of himself in blackface to social media last month has left the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus, Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said Monday.
Steinmetz and other top school officials described their approach in handling race and diversity issues at a student-organized town hall meeting, answering questions about the school's response to the post and hearing other concerns.
The Black Students Association, the Associated Student Government and the National Pan-Hellenic Council organized the event attended by about 130 people.
Steinmetz said the student making the post "chose to depart voluntarily from the university shortly after this matter arose." He said UA has an ongoing student conduct process and, citing student privacy, declined to comment further about the student.
Another UA administrator, Charles Robinson, told the crowd of mostly students that, generally speaking, if he was assessing a student conduct case with no safety threat his first thought would not be to expel a student.
The blackface post included the caption, "I hope this offends someone." The post also included a reference to the hit movie Black Panther, a superhero story with a mostly black cast.
"My first inclination is to educate this person to get them to understand how this particular rendition, this particular posting, was offensive to people," said Robinson, UA's vice chancellor for student affairs and formerly the university's top diversity officer.
Robinson, who is black, also formerly led the university's African and African American Studies program. He called expulsion "the last resort."
Some students questioned his approach and others in the crowd asked whether UA responded strongly enough after the post.
Steinmetz and Yvette Murphy-Erby, UA's top diversity officer, described some plans for new diversity initiatives.
"Perhaps the thing we must do is we have to step up the education that we do on this campus on this issue. And it begins by making sure that every single student that comes through our front door knows that we have expectations for behavior and conduct, we have expectations when it comes to these areas of diversity, inclusion and equality " Steinmetz said.
He added: "And I'll just simply state, if somebody wants to come to the U of A and doesn't buy into what we have expected and what we have defined, they need to go somewhere else. I don't think they're welcome here."
J'lynn Lowery, president of the UA charter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, a group of nine historically black fraternities and sororities, described times when she felt ignored on campus.
"I got into a class where people wouldn't even be my partner or people will walk past you," said Lowery. She later described a need for students to "come together more" and avoid "just staying at our own little bubble."
UA has seven campus student groups organized as part of the council, which distributed a statement Feb. 26 on social media stating that the blackface post "negatively affected the Razorback community" and condemning "such distasteful actions."
A student in the audience questioned Robinson's approach, citing the caption as evidence that the student making the post "was educated on why it was offensive."
Robinson cited the student's age -- "18 years of age or a freshman" -- and said, generally, "I think, when we can, we should try to redeem that person."
In response to a question about whether UA should make a stronger statement, Steinmetz defended the university's response but also read a new statement that had been considered but not released: "The disgusting imagery and words posted online last week are reflective of an individual's attempt to incite -- but failing to -- further hatred."
Metro on 03/13/2018
Print Headline: Student in blackface gone, UA chancellor says