Ally Morrison, Correspondent
Jacksonville State University campus organization El Latido de Mi Cultura wrote a letter to university officials last Thursday calling for a “direct response” from the university regarding racist comments made against immigrants by a JSU student on TikTok in February.
One TikTok user went viral after he exposed a JSU student’s violent comments against immigrants in a video posted to the platform on Feb. 6. The user’s video received over 389,000 likes.
“The video caused feelings of indignation and fear among our El Latido members, who identify as part of the LatinX community,” said Giovanna Hernandez, president of El Latido de Mi Cultura, in a letter to university officials. “Weeks went by and no public statement or address from the university was made.”
El Latido de Mi Cultura is a student organization that aims “to raise awareness of and celebrate Hispanic cultures at JSU through education and action,” according to JSU’s website.
“El Latido de Mi Cultura continues to be disappointed in the university’s lack of a response to the matter,” said Hernandez. “Further, our organization would love to have the opportunity to meet with you, discuss our concerns in-depth, and brainstorm ideas for how we can work together to cultivate a more welcoming environment on campus.”
Hernandez said that the JSU student’s comments were hate speech and that El Latido “feels that hate speech has no place on JSU’s campus, especially for an institution that prides itself on being the ‘friendliest campus in the South’.”
“This is not just an issue for our organization,” said Hernandez. “Student organizations across campus have signed on to a letter in support of El Latido.”
Buffy Lockette, the university’s director of public relations, said that the university became aware of the student’s comments on Feb. 6, the day that the TikTok video was published.
“That following Monday, Feb. 8, we began a student conduct investigation,” said Lockette. “Due to federal law, we are unable to discuss the outcomes of that investigation.”
Jasmin Nunez, JSU’s director of the Office of Community Standards and Student Ethics, spoke with the president of El Latido on Feb. 22, when she came forward expressing concerns.
“Ms. Nunez and our Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Charlcie Pettway Vann, sat down with the entire chapter on March 10 to answer questions and provide support,” said Lockette. “The administration received the letter from El Latido on April 15 and has scheduled a meeting between them and the president for next week to discuss further. We want all our students to feel safe and supported on campus and strive to provide a welcoming, respectful, and unbiased environment for all.”
According to the American Library Association, “hate speech” does not have a legal definition under U.S. law.
However, the ALA extends an alternative definition stating, “hate speech is any form of expression through which speakers intend to vilify, humiliate, or incite hatred against a group or a class of persons on the basis of race, religion, skin color, sexual identity, gender identity, ethnicity, disability, or national origin.”
Timothy Barnett, a JSU political science professor, shares his insight into hate speech and censorship.
“The university environment is one in which young people receive socialization to reasonable standards of public discourse and responsible behavior,” said Barnett. “At times we see examples of students who are slow catching on to the boundaries of human decency, especially when it comes to public policy issues where the political parties are hotly contesting where to draw the lines. In cases where students miss the acceptable mark by a wide margin, it is appropriate for universities to provide guidance or even disciplinary measures.”
Barnett continues by explaining that the university environment should provide room for students to make mistakes, correct themselves and improve moving forward, “especially the case in instances where brashness, immaturity and a lack of intellectual development lead people to speak foolishly and negligently.”
“Going to political or academic war over words may not be the highest pathway to harmony,” said Barnett.