Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Racist comments in 'Ask President Stanley' online question platform

February 17, 2020
<p>A student watches President Stanley intently as he answers his question about new intramural facilities in the future. Students gathered to ask President Stanley questions about university related topics during the Ask Stanley Q&amp;A hosted in the Business College Complex on Feb. 18, 2020.</p>

A student watches President Stanley intently as he answers his question about new intramural facilities in the future. Students gathered to ask President Stanley questions about university related topics during the Ask Stanley Q&A hosted in the Business College Complex on Feb. 18, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

During a question and answer session with Michigan State President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., some anonymously posted questions contained racist remarks.

According to the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, President Mario Kakos, police were contacted and are trying to obtain IP addresses of the users who posted the comments on the event's platform, Slido.

"It's very unfortunate that had to happen," Kakos said. "And we're gonna do our best, of course, working with President Stanley and Dr. Maybank in addressing it the best we possibly can. It's easy to hide behind a screen but those words have real impact."

Members of the Black Student Alliance, or BSA, planned to attend this event as part of their Black Revolt Week, in order to ask President Stanley questions relating to racism on campus.

"I told everybody even if you're not here just like (our questions) and that's what happened," BSA President Sharron Reed-Davis said. "First, they were ignoring our questions, and then everybody got to see all of this racist stuff happening – like everybody got to see."

When black students started to ask questions, racist comments began appearing.

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"The worst part about it is that this was going on throughout the entire event," Reed-Davis said. "And they stopped at the end of the event to say that it wouldn't be tolerated, but if it really wasn't tolerated, why didn't you stop as soon as it happened?"

The BSA took to twitter to share their frustration with these remarks.

Stanley said he was unaware of the comments as the event was happening because Kakos delivered the questions to him via text, but was shown the screenshots afterwards by BSA and audience members.

"It's very disappointing to me," Stanley said. "They know they're obviously inappropriate and hurtful. And I think it tells me that if we do this again, we're gonna have to find to have to find a mechanism where people aren't hiding behind anonymity to say hurtful comments."

Audience member Lesly Morales was one of the people who approached Stanley with screenshots of the comments, they think this is another example of the need for diversity and inclusion training at MSU. When Morales worked in Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, or SARV, training they were confronted with students using racial slurs and always had to be the one to note that it was not OK.

"We're at MSU, this is a place of inclusion right?" Morales said. "Why did it have to be me, the person of color to say something. Why? Because there's no training."

Stanley and Kakos noted the overall disappointment in these events and hope that in future similar events there will be a better way to execute the question system.

ASMSU released a statement following the event.

"While the moderator was unable to physically see the racist comments real-time, he was able to address the comments at the end of this event. We should have addressed this immediately, we allowed it to continue by waiting until the end of the event. ASMSU takes full accountability for not fully protecting black students," according to the statement. "No student, regardless of their identity should feel unsafe on this campus."

Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:13 a.m. to include a press release from ASMSU.

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