UNF investigating Snapchat 'mocking' Black Lives Matter rally

University president describes video as 'racist' in statement

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The University of North Florida said it has opened an investigation into a social media video that appears to show "people mocking, in a racist way," students who participated in a Black Lives Matter rally on campus Wednesday.

The video posted to Snapchat shows two people, who look to be in a dorm room, jumping up and down and making monkey sounds. 

The original caption across the Snapchat reads, "What actually went on at the BML rally."

Zack Morse, the student who posted the video, told the UNF campus newspaper that the caption was not a typo and that the entire incident was a misunderstanding.

He released a statement to the Spinnaker, reading:

“The situation in question is under investigation by the university. I am not really at liberty to discuss details quite yet, but I can say that this entire ordeal is a harsh misunderstanding and more information (is) soon to follow.”

Morse declined to identify the two males in the video, the Spinnaker said.

"I mean, there's no other possible thing that could have been," Natalia Riverapacheco, UNF student, told News4Jax on Friday. 

Some students said they don't believe it was a typo.

"The rally was not soon before this event that happened. So it's obviously a cop-out to him," J'yah Lewis, UNF student said. "I thought it was repulsive. I thought it was showing exactly what this country is at its roots."

In a letter sent Wednesday night to UNF President John Delaney and the UNF administration, the Students for a Democratic Society organization said if appropriate action is not taken quickly, it will demand administrators be removed from their positions.

"We're uncomfortable with people calling us monkeys. We're uncomfortable with people not respecting our constitutional rights as Americans," Monique Williamson, president of Students for Democratic Society, told News4Jax on Thursday. "I would like to see President Delaney disavow this racist act and let people know that UNF doesn't stand for racist behavior. It doesn't stand for reactionaries making students feel uncomfortable because that's the black student sentiment."

Several students agreed that the video is disrespectful, but not everyone agrees on the racial atmosphere of the school. 

"I definitely think there's definitely racial divide at the university. It's very unfortunate, but I definitely think there is," said Johanna Smolka, UNF student. "The African-American community and white community at UNF is definitely, strictly divided."

Other students said they don't feel there's a racial divide.

"I've never really experienced racial problems here. Everyone treats everyone equal, usually," said Faith Shirley, a senior at UNF. "But the video was very sad and disgusting to watch."

Although some feel the campus is welcoming to all races, most believe the Snapchat was offensive and shouldn't be tolerated. 

"Hopefully, he can take whatever steps necessary to prevent this from happening again. Let people protest peacefully and not feel mocked or judged because of what they want to talk about," said Jacquez Baldwin, UNF student.

A message from Delaney was sent to students, faculty and staff Thursday morning:

The University is investigating a social media video that appears to show several people mocking, in a racist way, participants in a Black Lives Matter rally that took place on campus Wednesday afternoon. We received notice of the video last night. I understand that videos such as this are very hurtful to many people. 

We will conduct a full and fair investigation.

We are a campus with strong policies and practices concerning racial harmony, civility, diversity, respect and bullying. In matters such as this, there are always elements of free speech, due process and federal laws concerning privacy. 

As the investigation continues, it's important to note that under federal privacy laws, the University may be constrained in what it can reveal publicly. 

UNF has a Code of Student Conduct, and if we determine the Code was violated, the University will take responsible and appropriate action. 

As a reminder, UNF is committed to values that promote the welfare and positive transformation of individuals, communities and societies.

We value the pursuit of truth and knowledge carried out in the spirit of intellectual and artistic freedom. Our Values Statement embraces:
Ethical Conduct
Community Engagement
Responsibility to the Natural Environment
Mutual Respect and Civility

If you are impacted by this matter, we have several campus resources that might be helpful to you. These links will take you to each office's web page, so you can make an appointment or check out their services:

Department of Diversity Initiatives
Counseling Center
Commission on Diversity and Inclusion

We will update the campus community as appropriate.

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