Why isn’t the university taking action against CU students who have posted racist comments in social media?

The university acknowledges the frustration of our community on the desire to hold individuals accountable for racist speech. We want everyone to understand that:

  • CU Boulder takes seriously all allegations of racial hostility and reviews every report we receive of race-based discrimination and harassment in accordance with federal and state law and guidelines and university policy.
  • All racist social media posts have been referred to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC).
  • All known impacted parties receive an outreach from the OIEC and are provided with information about available options and access to support services.

Why won’t the university tell us what disciplinary actions are being taken against these students?

The university has heard the voices and received the messages from our community that racist speech cannot go unaddressed in our community. We want to explain that:

  • Federal student privacy law restricts our ability to publicly disclose our resolution processes involving students, including whether or what discipline was imposed.
  • The university can, however, confirm directory information, including whether students are enrolled or whether they are participating in officially recognized sports or activities.

Why aren’t racist comments being treated as conduct and being disciplined by the university?

The university acknowledges the calls for accountability for racist speech. We want everyone to know that:

  • Racist comments are referred to the OIEC for resolution which may include informal resolution, or formal adjudication, among other things.
  • The university must provide a fair and equitable process for all students accused of misconduct before imposing discipline.
  • Racist comments on social media must form a pattern of targeted behavior against an individual based on their protected class and be so severe and/or pervasive as to constitute race-based harassment, that could ultimately result in discipline.

Other universities have revoked the admission of new students who have made racist posts in social media. Why can’t CU Boulder join them?

We want our community to know that all public universities must ensure due process before imposing discipline on students. We would ask our community to understand that:

  • The university follows its policies and procedures for all enrolled students who are accused of conduct violations, consistent with applicable law.
  • As a public institution, the university cannot punish people for speech that is within the boundaries of free speech. Freedom of speech must be balanced with the goal of ensuring equal access to an inclusive educational and professional environment
  • Race-based harassment, or a “hostile environment” as that term is defined in federal law and our policy, is not subject to First Amendment protection. When a student, faculty members or staff is found to have engaged in unlawful harassment, the university will take appropriate action.

Does this mean all manner of racist conduct is acceptable in the university community?

No, absolutely not. The university condemns all racist comments and behaviors and while policy and the law limit when and how discipline can be imposed, we can and will do more to reduce the impacts of systemic racism and equip our community with the knowledge and skills to positively contribute to an inclusive environment. The baselines of our community accountability are:

  • In addition to the university’s discrimination and harassment policy, each student on our campus is expected to know and comply with our student code of conduct;  each faculty member is governed by our professional rights and duties; and each employee is expected to abide by our university’s code of conduct.
  • CU Boulder exists as an institution for the growth of knowledge and understanding in service to the public good. Part of our committed approach in conduct cases is the opportunity for restorative and educational outcomes for all parties. While some cases do call for dismissal from our campus community, we are also committed to facilitating each person’s growth in understanding and behavior to enable the progress we need to make as a campus community and in society at large.