CSU student expelled over racist social media posts

Serena Bettis

Colorado State University has expelled a student after footage of the student’s racist social media posts surfaced June 8.

The University announced the student’s expulsion in two tweets July 1 after the posts prompted a review by Student Conduct Services. The tweets stated that, due to the violent and threatening nature of the posts, they moved beyond the protections of the First Amendment. 



“(The) process has now concluded with a determination that the behavior violated the Student Conduct Code,” the tweets read. “As a result, the individual has been disciplinarily expelled from CSU.”

A petition started by the Instagram account @colostatememes identified the student as Neal Van Houten, an incoming freshman. The University has not confirmed the identity of the student. 

In an email to The Collegian, Public Safety and Risk Communications Manager Dell Rae Ciaravola shared a statement from the University stating that, as a public institution, CSU is considered an arm of the government and is legally prohibited from censoring free expression. 

“That does not mean that all expression or conduct is protected by the First Amendment, however — including threats of violence,” Ciaravola wrote. “When conduct goes beyond the protections of the First Amendment, such as that contained in the social media post at issue here, we can and do refer it to existing University processes.”

The admin of the @colostatememes account wrote in a direct message to The Collegian they thought it was about time the University did something, and they think the petition helped encourage the University to take action on the incident. 

“I definitely think it (helped), although CSU did post about it before I did; I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to sweep it under the rug given their past with racist incidents on campus,” the admin wrote. 

This incident, like many before it, initially resulted in student outrage and an email from CSU President Joyce McConnell explaining the incident and expressing disgust at the language used in the posts. 

This is the first time a student has been expelled over racist social media posts at CSU. 


“The First Amendment and the case law interpreting it is highly complex, and CSU must carefully consider the facts in each individual situation,” Ciaravola wrote.

The Associated Students of CSU passed a resolution condemning acts of racism in an emergency session June 17 that suggested several action items, including opening channels of communication for activist groups, putting additional student government funds into on-campus community organizations that focus on diversity initiatives and working with Student Affairs to release surveys to the CSU community regarding racism on campus. 

The announcement also comes less than a week after McConnell announced the Task Force on Campus, Community and Personal Safety in response to the weeks of Black Lives Matter protests and demands for police accountability and defunding. 

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.