Chancellor: Administrators worked with YouTube to take down racist video, classes still on for May 2

Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell speaks to reporters April 25, 2016, in Anthony Hall about a racist video that was posted on YouTube calling for lynchings on campus. (Daily Egyptian file photo)

Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell speaks to reporters April 25, 2016, in Anthony Hall about a racist video that was posted on YouTube calling for lynchings on campus. (Daily Egyptian file photo)

By Luke Nozicka, @lukenozicka

Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell told reporters Monday that the university worked with YouTube during the weekend to take down a racist video calling for lynchings on campus. 

During about a half-hour long news conference in Anthony Hall, Colwell said the university does not know who created the video that called for black students to be beaten on May 2. A campus-wide peaceful protest against student loan debt has also been scheduled that day, according to the newly formed May 2 Strike Committee.

He said the university has been monitoring the situation on social media and plans for classes to be in session that day. 

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“Folks,” the chancellor said. “We need to stay calm.”

The video was removed from YouTube on Monday afternoon. When asked if the video was posted using SIU’s Wi-Fi, Linda McCabe Smith, associate chancellor for institutional diversity, said the case is still under investigation.

This comes during a time of several reported racist incidents on campus. Colwell said he has met with six constituencies on campus, starting the dialogue about how to improve race relations. 

“We know there are issues that need to be addressed,” he said. “As chancellor of this campus, I will pound on the table for the safety of our students. … But [the video] is tapping into the vein … it is hitting a chord with certain students, so that’s why we have to have the dialogue.” 

Colwell held the news conference with McCabe Smith, university spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith, Kevin Bame, SIU’s vice chancellor for administration and finance, Lori Stettler, interim vice chancellor of student affairs and Undergraduate Student Government president Kevin Gettis. 

The 2-minute, 5-second video posted Thursday by YouTube account “ATO AZO” calls black people the N-word while using footage from the Disney movie “A Bug’s Life.” 

An anonymous speaker ends the video by attributing the message to the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at SIU and calling for black students to be beaten and lynched on May 2. The May 2 Strike Committee said it is anti-racism, anti-oppression and has no connection to the video.

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Nolan McConnell, president of SIU’s ATO, said no one in his fraternity made the video, which was titled “SIUC White is Right.” Administrators also said they don’t believe SIU’s ATO was involved. 

After the news conference, Willie Lyles III, Graduate and Professional Student Council’s vice president for administrative affairs, said the video is just more evidence that the university needs a new or updated diversity plan. Lyles III said students in GPSC have been meeting with administrators since the fall to make a diversity plan that is more proactive — something they thought to do following the race-related protests at the University of Missouri.

“It’s like I tell my friends, if you wake up black, you’ll experience racism at least four times a day,” said Lyles III, a third-year law student. “What some people may not realize is insensitive is — and it is real.”

The video was the most recent incident of racism relating to the university. 

In a Facebook live video, SIU student Leilani Bartlett said white students — some of whom are alleged ATO members — used racial slurs against her and told her in Brown Hall to “go back to Africa.” The video had gained more than 172,000 views and nearly 6,000 shares on Facebook as of Monday afternoon. 

“You’re not going to make me feel uncomfortable at a school I pay $22,000 to go to,” Bartlett, a freshman from Chicago studying business, said in the 3-minute, 26-second video. “I went down there and I confronted all of them. Y’all want to have an open discussion and an open forum about black people? Let me pull up a seat.”

Colwell responded to the video via email by saying the university was investigating the incident. 

After Bartlett’s video, 100 people marched from Brown Hall to Morris Library to demonstrate against on-campus racism. The group walked to the library chanting phrases such as “How’s a university take pride in its diversity, but we can’t live here comfortably?” and “Accepted, but not welcomed.”

Then on April 17, a swastika was drawn on a Neely Hall chalkboard next to a pro-Donald Trump message, reading “Build That Wall” and “This country is so sad.” 

MORE: Where Trump support moves from politics to hate | 77 percent of students believe racism exists on campus, Daily Egyptian poll shows 

About 20 students gathered April 18 for a sit-in in the lobby of the chancellor’s office in Anthony Hall, where they demanded the university resume a search for a professor who specializes in Africana philosophy and African-American philosophy. 

Johnathan Flowers, a doctoral candidate in philosophy from Oak Park, said the department has been trying to get a professor in this position for the last 10 years, and this is the first year the administration had approval to conduct a search and interview applicants. He said having a professor that specializes in Africana and African-American philosophy would serve all students.

Students expressed concerns on Wednesday about on-campus racism during a meeting held by the Center for Inclusive Excellence. The panel of administrators said students can be open when filing complaints, and explained what resources students have to file a complaint. 

During the news conference, Goldsmith said the university does not know if any of the incidents are related, but said she believes they are “playing off of each other.”

Evan Jones contributed to this report. 

Luke Nozicka can be reached at 618-536-3325 or [email protected]

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