Texas State Seeks To Diffuse Tension After A Year Of Racial Incidents On Campus
Texas State University students have called for the resignation of their student body president after racially insensitive social media posts surfaced last week. This follows a tumultuous year of racial issues on campus.
"The actions by President Connor Clegg are absolutely reprehensible and he should be held accountable," Deanna Spearman, president of the school's chapter of the NAACP, said in statement.
The university began receiving attention for discriminatory incidents the day after the 2016 presidential election. Flyers expressing support for President Donald Trump, threatening university leaders and undocumented students, and advocating white supremacy were spotted on campus. Students and faculty held protests, and Texas State University President Denise Trauth sent out statements denouncing the messages. She also invited students to public forums and increased the campus police presence.
As more flyers and banners appeared across campus over the following year, an opinion article titled “Your DNA is an abomination” was published in Texas State’s student-run newspaper, The University Star. In the article, senior Rudy Martinez criticized “white privilege.”
"I hate you because you shouldn’t exist; you are both the dominant apparatus on the planet and the void in which all other cultures, upon meeting you, die,” the article stated.
After the school received backlash, Trauth released a statement saying the article was "racist" and did not adhere to the campus’s values. Martinez said he believes the statement influenced the paper’s decision to fire him and his editor a day later.
“It placed a much larger target on my back, and I already had quite the target on my back,” Martinez said. “That really hasn’t subsided.”
Student Body President Clegg also publicly condemned the article and even started a petition to defund The University Star. The paper took responsibility for the article and apologized for the offensive language used.
Last month, the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs held a meeting at Texas State to discuss students’ First Amendment rights. The committee heard comments from officials at Texas State, Texas A&M and Texas Southern University. (Republican state Rep. Briscoe Cain had been blocked from speaking at a TSU event months earlier after student protests.)
At that meeting, Trauth emphasized the importance of allowing students to be aware of and take advantage of their free speech rights. Martinez later told the committee those exact rights had been violated.
Fast-forward to last week: Discriminatory and sexist Instagram posts surfaced from Clegg’s account. The posts included photos of Asian people and nuns with racially insensitive and derogatory comments under them. Clegg apologized, stating that he was immature and in high school when the photos were posted.
“What I said in those posts was unacceptable and it was the byproduct of a complete cultural ignorance that I had before I came to Texas State,” he said.
Trauth later released a statement condemning the posts.
Monday night, hundreds of students gathered at a student government meeting calling for Clegg’s resignation and impeachment. Student activist Russell Boyd II said behavior like Clegg’s has been tolerated for too long and that racial tensions have not been addressed appropriately by Trauth, creating an environment where many students feel unsafe.
“This university has gone above and beyond to make a name for itself, to bring in revenue, and no one is taking that away from her,” Russell said. “But as far as someone being student-oriented and student-connected, she has done a very piss-poor job in my opinion.”
Trauth has released at least five statements in the past year about racism on campus. And although Martinez, Clegg and Boyd have strong opinions on what Texas State is or is not doing right, all agreed on one thing: There’s been more tension on campus, and it needs to be fixed.