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CSU student expelled over racist social media posts

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. 

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“(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. 

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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.

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About the Contributor
Serena Bettis
Serena Bettis, Editor in Chief
Serena Bettis is your 2022-23 editor in chief and is in her final year studying journalism and political science. In her three years at The Collegian, Bettis has also been a news reporter, copy editor, news editor and content managing editor, and she occasionally takes photos, too. When Bettis was 5, her family moved from Iowa to a tiny town northwest of Fort Collins called Livermore, Colorado, before eventually moving to Fort Collins proper. When she was 8 years old, her dad enrolled at Colorado State University as a nontraditional student veteran, where he found his life's passion in photojournalism. Although Bettis' own passion for journalism did not stem directly from her dad, his time at CSU and with The Collegian gave her the motivation to bite down on her fear of talking to strangers and find The Collegian newsroom on the second day of classes in 2019. She's never looked back since. Considering that aforementioned fear, Bettis is constantly surprised to be where she is today. However, thanks to the supportive learning environment at The Collegian and inspiring peers, Bettis has not stopped chasing her teenage dream of being a professional journalist. Between working with her section editors, coordinating news stories between Rocky Mountain Student Media departments and coaching new reporters, Bettis gets to live that dream every day. When she's not in the newsroom or almost falling asleep in class, you can find Bettis working in the Durrell Marketplace and Café or outside gazing at the beauty that is our campus (and running inside when bees are nearby). This year, Bettis' goals for The Collegian include continuing its trajectory as a unique alt-weekly newspaper, documenting the institutional memory of the paper to benefit students in years to come and fostering a sense of community and growth both inside the newsroom and through The Collegian's published work. Bettis would like to encourage anyone with story ideas, suggestions, questions, concerns or comments to reach out to her at editor@collegian.com.

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