Belmont freshman Justin Woodard has been expelled from the university on Tuesday following an offensive social media post.
The Snapchat post showed a photo of three African-American Philadelphia Eagles players standing and holding up their fists during the national anthem in protest of police brutality. The caption, which included a racial slur, said the players should be shot.
Fellow students reacted to the post via social media, many expressing outrage. Belmont University issued a statement via social media rejecting Woodard’s comments, saying “immediate action” would be taken and that an investigation is taking place.
“This is not free speech – this is hate speech,” the statement said.
The Belmont University Facebook page was down for a short period of time following the release of the statement. However, a later statement from the Office of Communications sent via email confirmed that “the person involved is no longer a student at Belmont.”
This update was written by Riley Wallace.
UPDATE: BSA members respond to Justin Woodard incident
Members of Belmont University’s Black Student Association said they felt personally hurt, unsafe on campus and concerned following a controversial Snapchat posted by former Belmont freshman Justin Woodard Monday night.
“This is a Christian community and this is supposed to be a community of love, I felt unloved at that moment, because you’re calling me out of my name, and calling us as a race out of our names. It made me feel like I wasn’t important to the family,” said freshman BSA member Sydney Evans.
Belmont University Office of Communications released a statement about the situation Tuesday afternoon; Belmont University President Bob Fisher has yet to make a direct statement.
Jordan Delamar, member of the Belmont University chapter of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, said he was unsure of the effectiveness of Belmont’s response, and felt unsafe on campus.
“A lot of us probably don’t feel safe here, especially when he’s saying you’re gonna get your head shot off and stuff like that,” Delamar said. “What can Dr. Fisher say to us to make that better, cause there may be other people that feel that way and it could just be a trigger, like OK this one kid did this, what’s gonna stop the next kid from doing it?”
Campus security stated Tuesday afternoon that there was no reason to suspect any immediate security concerns and that Woodard had been removed from campus by security and would not be returning.
Despite feeling hurt by the social media post, both Evans and Delamar are hopeful that the incident will lead to further conversations.
“This is stuff that we deal with every day, so it’s just like finally it can come to the surface so Belmont can wake up and see what we’re dealing with. So it’s more so just like I’m done with that, I’m just glad to see what we’re gonna do next,” Delamar said.
This update was written by Zach Gilchriest.
UPDATE: Faculty, students, alumni speak out following Justin Woodard incident
Following the dismissal of freshman Justin Woodard for a racist Snapchat post that has gone viral since it was posted Monday night, Belmont administration, students and alumni have spoken out in support of the university’s decision.
In an email that went out to the student body Wednesday afternoon, Belmont University President Bob Fisher reiterated points made in prior statements that the student had been removed from campus and the post’s message does not align with university values. The statement in its entirety is available below.
“By now you may have seen the statement issued by the University regarding the offensive social media post made by one of our students late Monday evening. That student is no longer enrolled at Belmont. As a Christian institution racism, obscenities and threats of violence are our enemies. We will not tolerate this in our community.
Diversity and inclusion have been priorities at Belmont for many years. I am grateful for the good work of the Welcome Home Team, the current efforts of the Vision 2020 Diversity Work Group and the leadership of the Black Student Association. I also have high expectations for the recently established Office of Multicultural Learning and Experience. But there is much more work to be done that will call for the good intentions and best efforts of us all. I’m counting on you.”
Belmont’s College Republicans and College Democrats organizations both also released statements on Tuesday calling Woodard’s comments “detestable and morally reprehensible” and “not only shocking, but utterly unacceptable,” respectively.
Both statements are available in their entirety below.
“In light of the recent racist comments that came to light on social media, College Republicans would like to make it clear that this sort of rhetoric is detestable and morally reprehensible. There can be no defence of language which serves to denigrate our fellow man on the basis of race. We are all different from one another– but these differences are part of what make our Belmont community such a beautiful place to live and learn. Whether that’s diversity of skin color, diversity of religion, diversity of political ideology– College Republicans strongly affirm every man’s right to stand up for what they believe. Words of hate can never be condoned. Despite our differences, we are all bound by one race… the human race. Until we all remember that, there can be no healing.”
“In response to the racist comment on social media from a former student, Belmont University College Democrats would like to elucidate that this sort of rhetoric is not only shocking, but utterly unacceptable. While all men have the right to stand for what they believe, we cannot stand as words of hate against our fellow man. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. Our differences are what make us great, as one people, one nation, and one university. To embrace our differences helps us to better understand ourselves. The best way to fight racism is with solidarity and love of humanity. We are stronger together. We have to stand for the struggling and the striving and only then can we succeed as one nation.”
Meanwhile, students and alumni alike have also taken to social media to voice their opinions about the post and Woodard’s dismissal, with the topic available as a moment on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.
Alumna Keayana Robinson supports the actions of the university in dismissing Woodard, but added the conversation on race doesn’t need to end there.
“Expelling the student is an excellent first start, but after that we cannot just brush it off and then continue on about our day. Because the reality is there are larger issues going on around us in our world and in our society with African American people– specifically African American men– who are being shot and gunned down,” Robinson said.
In response to the message, the university faculty senate leadership team has also invited faculty to meet outside of Beaman A&B at 9:50 a.m. to “stand together in an act of solidarity” and show support the students of the Black Student Association before their meeting on Friday.
“We simply invite you to be present, to stand beside one another, and to pray for justice and reconciliation,” said the email sent to faculty from Dr. Bonnie Smith Whitehouse Thursday afternoon.
This update was written by Riley Wallace.
More information will be added to this story as it develops.