BGSU responds to racial tweets
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN, Sentinel County Editor
Saturday, 06 April 2013 15:00
Black Student Union members at Bowling Green State University are trying to turn racially cruel remarks into a platform for positive change at the university.
On Thursday evening, members of a fraternity gathered for an organized social at Ziggy Zoomba’s, a bar on East Wooster Street in between campus and the downtown.
“We were having a good time. There were no problems,” said Tiffany Smith, president of the Black Student Union. There were no confrontations between the white and black patrons of the bar, she said. However, when Smith and others returned home and checked their social networking, they saw several racially charged comments posted on Twitter by white BGSU students.
The tweets included comments such as “ocean of chocolate,” “it got dark real fast,” and “F--- N------.” By the morning, even more comments were posted, including one saying the person “had to take a shower” after being at Ziggy’s that evening.
“Somebody who is a fellow student said they felt they needed to take a shower,” Smith said. “When I saw that, I was enraged. I mean, we’re both educated people.”
Smith said several members of the black community at BGSU were hurt by the tweets.
“Is this my community?” she said many questioned. “But we can’t fault the entire community.”
Smith, who is scheduled to graduate with a degree in communications in May, said this was the worst racism she has encountered in her four years at BGSU.
On Friday, the Black Student Union demanded the university administration take action against the students who wrote the racially motivated tweets.
“The students are really, really hut. They are really upset,” she said. “Obviously we don’t want people to lose a chance for a degree,” but they should suffer some consequences, Smith said.
By late afternoon, BGSU President Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey responded with an email to all students, faculty and staff.
“It has been brought to our attention that some of our students were involved in a racially charged exchange on Twitter Thursday night regarding an event at an off-campus venue,” the statement began.
“All across campus we work hard to uphold the core values of the university, including respect for one another. The actions of the students involved is not condoned, nor acceptable,” Mazey stated.
The incident is under investigation by the Office of the Dean of Students in accordance with the BGSU Code of Student Conduct.
“We assure you that we will conduct a full investigation as prescribed by the code,” the statement read.
The sanctions for violating the student code of conduct range from a written notice or loss of privileges, to discretionary assignments, suspension or expulsion.
The email also asked if students become aware of any acts of discrimination or racism, that they contact the Office of Equity and Diversity at
or (419) 372-8476 or the Office of the Dean of Students at (419) 372-2843. In addition, a Bias Incident Report can be completed and submitted online.
Members of the Black Student Union were pleased by Mazey’s prompt response.
“I was very, very happy and pleased,” Smith said. “We sort of lit a fire up under her.”
While Smith is hoping the administration handles the discipline of the offending tweeters, she is also working with others to turn this incident into a platform for change.
“This is something that affects all of us,” regardless of race, she said. “This isn’t just a black thing.”
When BGSU students or others in the community are confronted by tweets or other communications that are discriminatory against any groups such as blacks, Latinos or the gay community, Smith is suggesting that they respond with tweets that state “Not in my town.”
“This is not what our community stands for,” she said.
Dr. Dalton Jones, assistant professor of ethnic studies and adviser for the Black Student Union, said the offensive tweets were the last in a “string of incidents” in the area. He referred to the arson at the Islamic Center, the alleged white supremacist arrested at the Bowling Green mall, the swastika graffiti at the home of the BGSU basketball coach, and the car of a graduate student vandalized with watermelon.
“There’s been a string of events in the last year,” Jones said.
On Saturday morning, Jones was confronted by more racial hatred when he saw chalk graffiti on a Pike Street sidewalk near campus that said “F--- N------.”
Jones was pleased that the university administration responded so quickly to the racially charged tweets.
“It is heartening that in this case they have taken a swift, clear and decisive stance,” he said.
Now it is time for the community to get involved, Jones said.
“Clearly we need to talk about what the next steps are,” he said. “Hopefully that will involve a community conversation. Certainly we can use this as an opportunity to affirm values of inclusion.”
Last Updated on Monday, 08 April 2013 07:49