Bias incident on social media prompts action from students

Noah Pasley

Editor’s Note: The video discussed in this article can be found at the bottom of this article. Please be advised that this video contains deeply racist and homophobic messaging, brings harm to members of the community and should be viewed at the individual’s own risk. The Collegian does not condone the deeply dangerous and racist language in any way. However, The Collegian decided to share the link to the video so members of the community can better understand the harm these actions cause to others. 

Update: As of Thursday, the video and TikTok account @eexposingracistss have been deleted. A new account has appeared @exposingracistss.

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Many students pushed for University action against the most recent bias-related incident at Colorado State University with petitions to the school after an email from CSU President Joyce McConnell was sent out Monday, condemning the newest incident in a series since her inauguration.

In a video obtained by The Collegian, a student set to study at CSU in the fall uses racist and homophobic language and threatens violence against members of the Black community. The video, originally posted on the TikTok page @exposingracistss, identified the student as Neal Van Houten.

The administrators of the TikTok page wrote in a direct message to The Collegian that their followers submit racist and derogatory content to the account, which then posts the videos anonymously. 

“Due to recent events, we’ve seen an outburst of excessive racism on social media amongst teens,” @exposingracistss wrote. “As racism is a growing issue, we wanted to play an even bigger part in minimizing it as a problem and making sure people are fully aware that their actions have consequences.”

The administrator for @colostatememes, an Instagram page run by a CSU student, wrote in a message to The Collegian that they received the video in a DM from a follower. They set up a petition under their pseudonym on change.org to get Van Houten’s admission to CSU revoked. 

The petition, “Don’t Allow Neal Van Houten to attend Colorado State University,” has gained more than 3,300 signatures since its inception on Monday. In a DM to The Collegian, the administrator wrote “#BLM” in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which has reignited amid a string of recent violence against Black people nationwide. 

I got involved because I was elected to be the voice for students on this campus. … I have a strong, no-tolerance policy when it comes to racism and social justice.” -Kyle Hill, ASCSU senator and biomedical sciences sophomore

“Because, although Joyce sent out an email talking about something racist on social media … she didn’t outright say this person wasn’t coming to CSU,” @colostatememes wrote. “So alongside (Associated Students of Colorado State University), who plans on writing something to give to Joyce McConnell, the petition will help to ensure he does not attend CSU.”

Kyle Hill, an incoming sophomore in the biomedical sciences program and an ASCSU senator representing the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is writing a resolution to be sent to McConnell’s office asking that Van Houten’s admission be rescinded, according to a DM sent to The Collegian. Hill wrote that he is “making a precedent” for all future acts of racism from students to have their admission offers rescinded as well.

“I got involved because I was elected to be the voice for students on this campus. … I have a strong, no-tolerance policy when it comes to racism and social justice,” Hill wrote. “ASCSU has not come forward yet, as we have not met since a month ago.”

Hill added that ASCSU cares for every single member of the community, regardless of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, etc. In his message to The Collegian, he wrote that he will submit the resolution this Friday by 5 p.m., and ASCSU will have an emergency session next Wednesday via Zoom to determine its stance as a whole. 

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“ASCSU has (been) and always will be there for the students, no matter what,” Hill said. “That is our promise to you and to the University.”

McConnell’s email comes after the University’s widely-criticized response to bias-related incidents. The students involved in the blackface post last fall were not referred to Student Conduct Services, whereas the latest post was.

CSU Executive Director of Public Relations Communication Mike Hooker wrote in an email to The Collegian that the University is prevented from discussing specifics about who posted the messages mentioned in McConnell’s email due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

However, Hooker added that the University was not allowed to take these actions against the students in the blackface post due to protections for free expression in the United States and Colorado constitutions, whereas the language in the recent post is not afforded the same protections due to the threat of violence it contained.

“When conduct goes beyond the protections of the First Amendment, such as that contained in the social media post described by President McConnell in her message, we can and do refer it to existing University processes,” Hooker wrote. “That said, the First Amendment and the case law interpreting it is highly complex, and CSU must carefully consider the facts in each individual situation.” 

Hooker reiterated McConnell’s statement that CSU is “avowedly anti-racist” and that the University stands in solidarity against individuals who use racist words or actions to threaten CSU’s values and harm members of the community. 

“CSU’s Race, Bias and Equity Initiative is bringing to the table people from across our CSU community to fight racism,” Hooker wrote in the email. “Incidents like this reinforce the fact that this work is absolutely necessary, and we have a long way to go.”

Noah Pasley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PasleyNoah.