Dear campus community,
In December, we learned of a racist Snapchat message that was sent by a student to her friend. We condemned it immediately.
The Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) immediately initiated a thorough review that examined the origin and context of the message. OIE also referred the inquiry to the Office of Student Accountability and Support (OSAS), and that office immediately began investigating the matter.
Upon review, the student’s racial slur was expressed in a direct message to her friend and was not communicated in a way that harassed any individual. In that context, the speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Because we are a public institution, constrained by the First Amendment, OIE and OSAS concluded the university has no grounds to discipline the student who sent the message, even though it is diametrically opposed to our values.
It is equally important, however, to emphasize that the First Amendment has limits, and we have and will take action when individuals are subjected to harassment that violates our rules prohibiting discrimination. For example, within the last year, we dismissed a student who directed a racial slur at a fellow student. We also will take action under our rules and refer to law enforcement any serious threat of violence to our campus community. Anyone who witnesses acts of harassment is encouraged to contact OIE, and anyone who is concerned about the threat of violence should contact MUPD.
We are a university that welcomes individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Our university community will not be defined by the actions of one individual, but instead by our deep and collective commitment to be welcoming to all. In the coming days and weeks, I will invite students, faculty and staff to meet with me and other university leaders. I want to hear your input to create a more inclusive environment. You can contact me at President@Missouri.edu.
Mun Y. Choi, Ph.D.
President, University of Missouri