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September 21, 2023

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BGSU responds to ‘racially charged’ tweets from students

After racially charged messages about the black community were tweeted by students Thursday night, the University announced an investigation for violations of conduct.

University President Mary Ellen Mazey sent out an email Friday regarding the incident, which occurred at Ziggy Zoomba’s.

“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 said in her email.

The Office of the Dean of Students will investigate the incident in accordance with the Code of Student Conduct, according to Mazey’s email.

Tweets posted by students referred to a group of people as a “chocolate ocean,” and made statements such as “it got dark real fast,” along with other, more vulgar statements.

Members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity gathered Thursday night at Ziggy Zoomba’s to celebrate the induction of new members into the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.

“Normally there’s not a very prominent African-American community [at Ziggy Zoomba’s,]” said Tiffany Smith, the president of the Black Student Union. “Some people felt upset that African-Americans were there.”

There were no problems at the bar that night to spark the incident and, in fact, Smith said she had a good time. It wasn’t until she got back to her room around 2 a.m. that she noticed the tweets.

“If we have tension between two communities, it affects the entire University,” Smith said. “It affects the African-American community because it had nothing to do with any incident or any reason for people to be called those terms.”

Ziggy Zoomba’s has since apologized for the actions of some of its customers via Twitter.

Dalton Jones, assistant professor in Ethnic Studies and adviser to BSU, was encouraged by the “swift” and “clear” response of the University, as well as the “expressions of solidarity” the BSU received from a wide range of student organizations.

“It’s important for us to recognize that this is also an opportunity for us to think about some pro-active strategy we can take so we can address these types of issues before they happen,” Jones said.

This is not the first time an incident such as this has happened in Bowling Green recently, Jones said. This past October, someone smashed watermelons on a vehicle, poked holes in the vent area near the windshield and left a note saying, “[Racial slur] don’t live here,” according to an October blotter entry printed in The BG News. In the same month, four male juveniles drew a Swastika with chalk on the driveway of Louis Orr, head coach of the men’s basketball team, The BG News reported in October. Jones also mentioned the arson at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg in September.

The BSU sent out an email Friday after meeting with administrators demanding the students be held accountable for their actions. The email went to the organization’s listserv, as well as selected professors and administrators, including Mazey, Smith said.

“We don’t want any type of issue on campus,” Smith said. “Our goal is not to protest or march,” she continued, but deal with the issue in a “responsible and professional way.”

Jones said he would also like to see positive dialogue throughout the city and campus.

“It’s time to open up a dialogue, a campus-wide dialogue and even a community dialogue on the state of race relations,” Jones said. “This is the beginning of a larger conversation that we look forward to having about the importance of diversity inclusion.”

Undergraduate Student Government President Alex Solis also reacted to the tweets by disapproving of the sentiment they create in the campus community.

“This shows now more than ever we cannot tolerate matters like this,” Solis said. “This community needs to come together and start addressing these cultural problems.”

This is exactly what Jones talked about when he met with Mazey, Solis, Jill Carr, dean of students and vice president of Student Affairs, and Barbara Waddell, director of Equity and Diversity. There are tentative plans for a community forum to address race relations, he said.

“It has a tremendous impact on the community because it is a racially biased incident and is a clear contradiction to the values of the University,” Carr said. “This behavior is unacceptable on this campus.”

The email from Mazey notified students to contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 419-372-2843 or the Office of Equity and Diversity at 419-372-8476 if they feel they have been subject to racial profiling.

The BSU has also worked with the Office of Equity and Diversity to establish a twitter hashtag called “not in our town.” Smith encouraged anyone speaking against discrimination of any type — from homophobia to racism — to tweet with the hashtag.

“It started on Twitter and we want to end it on Twitter on a positive note,” she said. “It’s a people thing and it’s about all of us.”

Editor’s Note: Editor-in-Chief Max Filby also contributed to this story.

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