Response to Hateful Language - Coastal Carolina University
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Coastal Carolina University President David A. DeCenzoOffice of the President

Communications from CCU President David A. DeCenzo‌

Response to Hateful Language

Jun. 28, 2020

Faculty, Staff and Students of Teal Nation:

The University has received several emails and social media messages regarding posts by one of our students. First, I unequivocally acknowledge these posts to be racist and homophobic in nature. These words create a hostile environment for our students and are in direct conflict with the values of this University.  Additional messages which refer to potential violence have been brought to our attention, and our law enforcement is working to assess the threat those messages may pose to our campus community. Once assessed, our law enforcement will determine the appropriate steps to address the posts. Those additional posts are also being reviewed for appropriate follow-up through the student conduct process.

As these instances occur, many of our community members are under the impression that the University is taking no action on these matters. I can assure you that every instance is thoroughly reviewed, and, when appropriate under the law, actions are taken. However, the specific outcomes of any disciplinary action cannot be shared in accordance with federal privacy laws.

The social media posts by some members of our community over the last year have made it clear to me that this University must re-evaluate our policies/processes and better assess our response to balancing the expression of opinion with a clear response to hateful and repugnant speech.  We seek to determine the most appropriate response to language that may be protected by the First Amendment, as most state institutions experience, but we can and must do better.  While public institutions like CCU are not completely powerless in the face of hate, it is very difficult to manage an individual’s use of language with the right to legally protected speech. Thus, the current interpretation and application of the First Amendment means someone may be attending a public university with people who hold and openly express racist, homophobic, or sexist views. This can be disheartening and confusing because many large companies, sports teams, and organizations have gone public with firing or removing employees or board members for publicly stating beliefs that do not align with the organizational values. Those private companies and organizations have that option. A public, state-funded university does not have the same discretion. 

However, I am directing our administration to move forward with the following actions: 

  • Effective immediately, a review team will convene to review any future submissions of hate-filled messaging from members of our community. This team will include faculty, staff, and student representation and will recommend a course of action to the University leadership for each specific incident. This week, the Dean of Students Office will email the campus information about the review team for those who are interested in serving. That e-mail will also include information on a new centralized way to report concerns to this team.  
  • I am commissioning a task force to review, evaluate, and propose revisions to our policies and practices to address the hate-filled language incidents that occur within our community. This task force will work over the next few weeks to complete this process and make recommendations to my office.  
  • I am charging our Provost to work with faculty in order to integrate discussion of the responsible use of social media into our curriculum.  We need to provide students an opportunity to discuss the wide-ranging impacts social media posts – good and bad – can have upon public discourse as well as an individual’s future educational and professional opportunities.

While I truly hope that we are not confronted with any future offensive and inappropriate messages, I recognize that the work to eradicate hate does not end. Our nation is currently at a concerning crossroads, a place where we should have been many years ago, a place where we must stop and better understand the lived experiences of each other, a place where we must work to eliminate instances that demean others based on their identities. In doing that, we take steps to oppose hatred and continue to build a nation of justice and opportunity. My hope is that the Coastal Carolina University community can participate in those steps by revisiting our processes and continuing to educate our students.

David A. DeCenzo
President, Coastal Carolina University