Student apologizes, SIU chancellor responds after racially charged photo goes viral

The chancellor of Southern Illinois University released a statement Thursday and a student apologized after a photo of her in what appears to be blackface posing in front of a confederate flag began circulating on social media. 

The photo is circulating on multiple social media sites, and was tweeted by a New York Daily News writer. As of this writing, that tweet has been retweeted 9,100 times. 

According to a Facebook post by SIU River Region Evening Edition, the student later posted an apology to Facebook, saying the post was taken out of context, before she deleted her account. "The confederate flag in the background is defaced (ripped in half) because I do not support it," SIU River Region Evening Edition quotes Fair’s post. "The black on my face is a boscia face mask. I do not hate any groups of people. #blacklivesmatter"

SIU River Region Evening Edition also posted a screenshot of a post by the student, which we have included within this story. We have covered the student’s name and photo in the image because we do not know the original context of the photo, and we have not been able to reach out to the student for comment. 

In a message to the campus community posted to the SIU website Thursday afternoon, Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell wrote the following:

To the Campus Community:

This week’s presidential election was extremely divisive and emotions are running high. A number of people have contacted my office regarding offensive behavior and comments, including social media posts. While federal law prohibits us from discussing issues related to specific students, please know that we deeply share your concerns. We are reviewing every incident and will take appropriate action.

I urge every member of our community to help create a respectful, safe and welcoming environment. We expect students to abide by the Saluki Creed:  "As a Saluki, I pledge to forward ideas and ideals. I will discourage bigotry and celebrate diversity by striving to learn from differences in people’s ideas, and opinions. I will embrace the ideals of freedom of civilized expression, intellectual inquiry, and respect for others."

We value individuals, diversity and inclusion. Anything less diminishes all of us. Free speech is an important right and value that we should use wisely and respectfully.

As has been said many times since the outcome was clear, one of the underpinnings of our democracy is free elections and the peaceful transition of power. Discussions about the future of our country are important, and I ask you to do so in a civil manner that respects everyone’s right to agree or to disagree. There is no place for intolerance on our campus.

Any student who feels threatened or at risk should contact campus police at 911 immediately. Acts of intolerance also can be reported to the Dean of Students Office at (618) 453-2461. In addition, our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff is available to assist students who may need support and can be reached at (618) 453-5371.

Sincerely,

Brad Colwell
Interim Chancellor

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