Members of the community and Humboldt State stand at the Arcata Plaza to demand that more be done by the school in response to racism happening on and around campus on June 10. | Photo by Thomas Lal

Racist Social Media Post Leads to Student Suspensions

Two Humboldt State University Students are Suspended from Campus Organizations
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Two Humboldt State University Students are Suspended from Campus Organizations

A video depicting three Humboldt State University students using the N-word multiple times and bullying a student’s skin was posted to Instagram. HSU’s administration released an official statement suspending two of the students from participating in their campus organizations.

The video was posted to an Instagram account run by HSU student, Victoria,“Vicky,” Ah-You. She posted the video June 3, the day it was sent to her from a friend, who preferred to remain anonymous. Ah-You stated that the video was recorded prior to her post and hesitated when originally sent it.

“I can’t reveal my source but a friend of mine sent it[the video] to me to use my platform to speak. She was too afraid to use her own platform,” Ah-You said. “I believe the video was made at the end of 2019 but it was never spoke on because people felt uncomfortable.”

Ah-You’s intention behind posting the video was to expose the behavior occurring towards people of color in Humboldt County.

“I released the video because I am tired of being silent myself and I know a lot of my brothers and sisters, Black and of color, out here at Humboldt University are afraid as well,” Ah-You said. “So I released the video to make a solid statement that we won’t stand for it no longer.”

Marley Peri, William Blohm and Vincenzo Jardino were the students shown in the racist video. Peri and Blohm participated in extracurricular activities, such as HSU Spirit Squad and the Chi Phi fraternity. Both were suspended from further participation.

After the video was posted, Peri and Blohm deleted their social media accounts after being tagged and identified as the people responsible for the racist behavior.

“If I’m being honest, I understand why the students took down their social media accounts. It caused a lot of outrage,” Ah-You said. “They received a lot of threats and I didn’t put that out there for them to receive threats. I put that out there for them to be checked. I think it was very cowardly to take down their accounts because if you’re going to make a creative video stating those racial slurs, you should be willing to stand behind it and stand on it.”

Ah-You stated that Peri posted an apology on Twitter but believes that’s not enough. Ah-You and her friends have also reached out to HSU Spirit Squad and Chi Phi fraternity but got no response from them either.

The current consequences for the students is suspension from campus activities. Ah-You believes the students deserve harsher punishment. She feels that HSU needs to do more to show their support to their students of color.

“Their actions send a statement out loud whether they know it or not. They do not stand with us in solidarity and they do not support my Black brothers and sisters out here.”

Victoria Ah-You

“If you’re asking me if I think the students should be expelled, I do,” Ah-You said. “This is not the first rodeo. I don’t know these students but I can understand a mistake but just as my Brown brothers and sisters and my Black community has to stand behind our mistakes, they need to stand behind theirs too.”

Ah-You is disappointed in HSU administration’s efforts to combat the social media post. She believes the current handling of the situation is not enough and doesn’t justify the severity of pain this video has caused the community.

“Their actions send a statement out loud whether they know it or not. They do not stand with us in solidarity and they do not support my Black brothers and sisters out here,” Ah-You said. “It’s been an ongoing issue. This video is just part of it. It’s been going on forever. I’ve been out here going on seven years and it’s just been going.”

HSU Vice President of Enrollment Management Dr. Jason Meriwether commented on the issue stating that the recent response from the student body and Arcata community is acknowledged by administration especially due to the current Black Lives Matter movement happening within our country. However with the investigation still ongoing, not much can be said.

“I understand the deep sense of hurt and pain caused by racist systems, language, and behaviors,” Meriwether said in an email. “Our students and campus community feels this right now due to the current national landscape, the very real history of racism, and even more from having this happen within our campus community. I cannot address the specifics of the current investigation or ongoing conduct process beyond the statement.”

Currently, the two students remain suspended from campus organizations. Micaela Harris, an HSU student athlete, unhappy with the current consequences, organized a petition on Change.org demanding the students be expelled from school. A week after the petition was created, more than 21,000 people have signed. That’s more than double the size of HSU’s student body.

“The goal behind it[the petition] is to show HSU that this type of behavior should not ever be tolerated,” Harris said in an email. “High schools are expelling their students for doing the same thing, yet a university isn’t? Humboldt is one of the cheaper universities to go to so this means it is extremely diverse. It should be a safe place for students of color and this type of behavior should not be tolerated.”

Meriwether has confirmed that HSU administrators are aware of the petition and are taking it into account with the ongoing investigation.

HSU AS President Jeremiah Finley responded to the recent incident, acknowledging the petition and expressing his outrage and sympathy with fellow HSU students who feel the suspension is not enough of a consequence.

“I would say I’m outraged as well, and their outrage is valid,” Finley said in an email. “As the Leader of the Student union, I often try to understand the diverse opinions of our students before inserting my own, but so for me, it is clear from the outcry and petition going around that the vast majority of students will not tolerate this type of behavior here at HSU.”

Finley elaborated on the enhanced responsibility and duty of students who partake in extracurricular campus activities and organizations, stating that students are held to high standards when they choose to participate.

“Students in organizations around campus are held to a higher standard,” Finley said in an email. “From clubs to our Greek Orgs, sports teams and Associated Students. Still, these students and their situation exceed the internal workings of their organization, and the final outcome needs to be resolved at the HSU level.”

Finley believes that the responsibility of the Spirit Squad and Chi Phi fraternity is to keep their participants and members in check. Such as monitoring their behavior and attitude towards others, as it not only represents their organization and its values but HSU’s as well, both on and off campus.

“The responsibility that falls on them[HSU organizations] is not condoning it in any way, as well as ensuring that the atmosphere they have doesn’t make it possible for that type of behavior to occur,” Finley said in an email. “Finally calling out any type of microaggressions and racist remarks where they can.”

Both HSU Spirit Squad and the Chi Phi fraternity failed to respond to requests to make a comment.

The recent social media frenzy has also stirred up racial tensions happening within HSU and the Arcata community, specifically the memory of the Josiah Lawson case. Protests, public demonstrations and marches have been the community’s response to the exposure of the racist behavior.

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One Comment

  1. Steven Jehly Steven Jehly Monday, June 15, 2020

    This does not reflect the Humboldt State University I attended. Peace, love and happiness is what the campus was all about. Peaceful anti-Vietnam war marches and rallies. Brotherhood and sisterhood. And the occasional “streaker”. Sad to see this kind of news coming from my alma mater. I’m sure the fine students and folks from Arcata will reject what has been said.
    Humboldt State University: BA-’72; Secondary-’73;
    Elementary-’74.

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