Kansas State University said it will honor its First Amendment obligation and not to expel a student whose Twitter post about George Floyd is deemed by many as offensive.
“As a governmental entity, we must operate within the law,” Kansas State President Richard Myers said in a statement to the campus community. “There have been many calls for us to expel a student who posted racist messages on social media, and while these messages are disrespectful and abhorrent, we cannot violate the law.”
The announcement came after a group of student athletes, including the university’s football and women’s basketball teams, demanded the administrators to expel Jaden McNeil, a third-year student and the founder of nationalist student organization “America First Students.”
On June 25, exactly one month after George Floyd died in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers, McNeil sent a now-deleted Twitter post, saying, “Congratulations to George Floyd on being drug free for an entire month!”
George Floyd has a history of being arrested on drug charges. A forensic report (pdf) also indicates that he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system when he died, although the report doesn’t link the drugs to his death.
In a statement posted online, black student athletes from several sports said they will not play in their respective seasons, unless the Kansas State establishes a policy of expelling students who “openly display racism” on social media.
“Due to recent insensitivity from Kansas State students, collectively as Black student athletes we will NO LONGER accept these types of actions. If we do not see any change, we will not participate in any donor or recruiting events,” the statement reads. “We also need to see student Jaden McNeil receive strong consequences of [sic] his insensitive actions.”
Myers, in response to demands, outlined a series of actions towards creating a “more inclusive” environment, including increasing enrollment and graduation rate of students of color, establishing a working group to identify “institutional bias” in existing policies, and developing mandatory “cultural competency” workshops for faculty and staff.
“These initial steps have been based on the many voices heard so far, we will continue to listen and develop actions based on the many voices in our community,” he said.
Kansas State in 2017 endorsed the “Chicago Statement,” a free speech policy statement adopted by many universities that wish to show their commitment to freedom of speech. The university says “it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”