In a joint statement sent to the campus community Tuesday, ODU President John Broderick and Student Government Association President Rachael Edmonds called the video “an outrageous act of hate and intolerance and we are sickened by this vile video. There is no place on this campus for hate and divisiveness.”
Edmonds said by phone that she was confused and very hurt, as a woman of color but also as a student. “It doesn’t represent our students on our university. You can see that on our campus, how our students have come together. They’re not standing for it.”
Montae Taylor, a junior from Richmond who is president of ODU’s chapter of the NAACP, said it was hard to believe there were people who felt the way the woman in the video did. “Given the fact you have so much hatred against one group of people,” he said. “I actually felt sorry for that person.”
The Mace & Crown, the student newspaper that first reported the video Tuesday, reported that at a forum held by the campus chapter of the NAACP later that night, some students were shocked by the incident, but others said they were not, given the national political climate.
Campuses across the country have found racist fliers, white supremacist posters, photos of students wearing blackface, nooses, swastikas and anti-Muslim and other slurs this academic year as tensions simmered over national protests about race and police violence and a polarizing presidential election.
A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. In recent days, Trump has underscored that he wants the country to be united. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday, in response to a question from a CBS News reporter about anti-Semitic incidents, that Trump has been “very forceful with his denunciation of people who seek to attack people because of their religion, because of their gender, because of the color of their skin.”
At Old Dominion University, a public research university with nearly 25,000 students in Norfolk, Edmonds said she believes it was the only racist incident on campus this year. After the election, she said the campus was very quiet. Some students have protested Trump policies such as immigration, she said, but no “anti-Trump hate speech.” She said university administrators have been forthright about addressing problems and that “this campus has been peaceful, loving, unified all year.”
Edmonds, a senior from Loudoun County, said forums like the one Tuesday night were helpful in confronting issues head-on. The woman who made the video, she added, “had she been able to talk to somebody about whatever she was going through, maybe she wouldn’t have reacted in that way. Clearly she’s hurt about something — she has a lot of hate in her heart. It helps to let that out — in other ways.”
They had already planned a meeting by a campus group promoting diversity and inclusion for Thursday, Edmonds said, with the topic being free speech.
“It’ll have an interesting little twist,” Edmonds said. “We’ll use it as a way to pull us closer together.”
Taylor said the forum Tuesday night gave him a sense of hope because black leaders, school officials and students gathered together, and “people were scared but we’re all going to stick up for each other. We have an inclusive campus for a reason — we care about each other — and things like this will be fought.”
People outraged by the incident posted things such as “Sad day to be an ODU student” on social media after seeing the video. Some tried to identify the person who made it and called for her to be expelled — if she is a student at the university — and punished.
Here is the full statement from Broderick and Edmonds:
From the moment students set foot on campus, Old Dominion University fosters a climate of inclusion. We take great pride in the displays of unity and mutual support that take place here every day.This morning, the University community learned of an extremely offensive video circulating online that features a person wearing an Old Dominion University branded shirt. This is an outrageous act of hate and intolerance and we are sickened by this vile video. There is no place on this campus for hate and divisiveness.University administrators are taking this matter seriously and University police are investigating. If you have any information that may be helpful to this investigation, please call the ODU Police Department at 757-683-4000.These types of incidents stand as a stark reminder that we must continue our resolve to educate on the importance of civility and inclusion. It is what we as a Monarch Nation stand for and represent every day.We understand that hateful words and messages cause harm, and our beloved university community stands together to support each other. Our Counseling Center is open to anyone who needs support and the Office of Intercultural Relations staff are available to all who would like to engage in discussion and in support of one another.We are a caring and inclusive university community, and united, we strongly denounce the video and stand against hate. Our resolve to build a unified campus community is stronger than ever.