Four white Colorado State University students who posed in blackface for a social media post will not be punished by the university, administrators said.
The students, all freshmen, were photographed in their dorm posing in blackface and crossing their arms over their chest in a reference to the movie Black Panther. The caption on the picture says “Wakanda forevaa.”
In a statement sent out to all students and faculty on Sept. 10, three administrators, including university President Joyce McConnell, said they disapproved of the use of blackface in the photo.
“Because of the long and ugly history of blackface in America, this photo has caused a great deal of pain to members of our community,” the statement read. “We have heard from many of you—and we hear you. Moreover, we respect your voices. We know that images like this one—whether consciously racist or not—can perpetuate deliberate racism and create a climate that feels deeply hostile.”
The administrators said that although the post went against the university’s principles, there was nothing they could do because of the students’ First Amendment rights.
“We also affirm that personal social media accounts are not under our jurisdiction,” the administrators wrote. “Our community members—students, faculty and staff—can generally post whatever they wish to post on their personal online accounts in accordance with their First Amendment rights.”
This statement was not enough for many students, who expressed their anger at the university on Twitter.
“So y’all are just gonna let them get away with racism cause ‘freedom of speech’? CSU really loves reminding their students of color that they don’t care about them,” user @Evelinacostaa wrote.
According to a report by NBC affiliate 9News, students also criticized the administration’s decision in chalk messages on the university plaza. According to students, they were soon washed away.
“CSU washed the chalk away and tore down any sign relating to the blackface issue but these damn religious people can come with 20-foot banners and tell me I’m going to hell for no reason. If you’re gonna protect free speech it’s gotta be for everyone,” user @aericnoteric wrote.
9News also reported that students are planning on proposing a “Protecting Students From Future Hate Speech” resolution to student government on Sept. 17.
“CSU values diversity until we get here,” student Haneen Badri told 9News. “After we get here, they don’t do anything to show us that we’re valued.”