University of Oklahoma Student Suspended After "Lynching" Messages Spread at UPenn

Getty Images

At Donald Trump's alma mater, black freshmen were added to a group chat in which one post read "daily lynching," and one participant was called a "dumb slave."

In the wake of Donald Trump's election, reports of racist incidents are emerging from the nation's schools and universities, including students chanting "white power" and calling black classmates "cotton pickers."

Reporting by the Associated Press and local media outlets has identified more than 20 such encounters beginning on Election Day, many involving people too young to cast a ballot.

At Trump's alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, black freshmen were added to a group chat in which one post read "daily lynching," and one participant was called a "dumb slave."

On Friday, UPenn's president said the chat appeared to be based in Oklahoma, and on Saturday, UPenn President Amy Gutmann received notice from the president of the University of Oklahoma, David Boren, that one student had been temporarily suspended as the school continues to investigate his involvement.

"Penn Police will continue to work with the FBI and University of Oklahoma Police in completing the investigation, as additional individuals may be involved," read a statement posted on UPenn's Twitter account Saturday morning about the ongoing investigation.

Boren also released a statement late Friday night, making it clear that the University of Oklahoma "will not tolerate racism or hate speech that constitutes a threat to our campus or others" and promising swift action when all the information has been gathered.

"I have ordered the appropriate officials at our university to open immediate inquiry to determine the extent of involvement by a University of Oklahoma student in this matter," he continued in the statement. "The university has already determined from its preliminary inquiry that there’s a basis for a temporary suspension of the student under our student code while we continue to gather all of the facts. That suspension is effective immediately."

On Friday, UPenn's Gutmann announced that campus safety would increase in light of the messages. In the statement, she said of the racist messaging, "The account itself is totally repugnant: it contains violent, racist and thoroughly disgusting images and messages. This is simply deplorable. Our police and information security staff are trying to locate the exact source and to determine if any steps can be taken to block the account."

Also in Pennsylvania, two students at the York County School of Technology held a Donald Trump sign in a hallway as someone shouted "white power," an incident captured on video and widely shared on Facebook.

The president of the local NAACP chapter said the video showed a hallway full of loud students, so any teacher or administrator who was monitoring would have known what was happening. Sandra Thompson added that the parents of black children in local schools have been told to "go back to Africa."

School administrators in Vice President-elect Mike Pence's hometown of Columbus, Ind., called for civility and respect after reports of Hispanic students being taunted. Felipe Martinez told the Indianapolis Star that his two sons were twice intimidated with chants of "build that wall," including on Election Day. The chant was common at Trump campaign rallies. At the University of New Mexico, a Muslim engineering student said a man attempted to snatch off her hijab Tuesday while she was studying.

"I turned around, and there's a really buff guy wearing a Trump shirt," freshman Leena Aggad said Friday. "He reaches his hand out to my forehead and attempts to pull my scarf off."

Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League office that monitors extremism, said young people "were watching and observing this presidential campaign as closely as anyone else." Now that the campaign is over, "the impact of what they have seen is not just going to go away."

On Wednesday, minority students at a high school in Gurnee, Ill., organized a meeting and protest after a "whites only" message was found scrawled on a bathroom door. The same day in Michigan, students at Royal Oak Middle School were filmed chanting "build a wall" in the cafeteria.

The morning after the election, leaflets from the Ku Klux Klan showed up in a neighborhood in Birmingham, Ala. At Central Texas University in San Marcos, Texas, police were investigating who posted fliers Thursday around campus urging the formation of "tar and feather vigilante squads" and threatening to "arrest and torture" campus diversity advocates.

In Durham, N.C., two walls were spray-painted with the statement "Black lives don't matter and neither does your vote."

The words — and, in some cases, violence — cut both ways.

In Louisiana, a university football coach disciplined four players in response to a locker-room video showing members of the team dancing and singing the lyrics of a profane anti-Trump rap song. Anti-Trump protests have swept U.S. cities, with one turning violent in Portland, Ore., as demonstrators smashed windows and set trash afire Thursday night.

A videotaped assault in Chicago showing black men beating a white man as onlookers scream, "You voted Trump," gained traction among conservative social media users after being broadcast by local television. The teenager who shot the video and her father told WFLD that the dispute began over a minor traffic accident and escalated with bystanders' shouts about the election, which was not a factor in the fight.

At the University of New Mexico, Aggad said she squirmed around in her chair to avoid contact with the man and then stood to confront him. He is white and attends a class with her.

"He said we think we can say whatever we want, but when they come and retaliate with whatever, they are the ones who get in trouble," said Aggad, who was born and raised in New Mexico by Palestinian parents who came to the United States about two decades ago.

Aggad said neither faculty members nor other students came to her aid. She later filed a report with the university's equal-opportunity office, and a campuswide email went out urging tolerance. She said she does not want anyone disciplined but wants her voice heard.

A university spokeswoman said officials had received complaints about several other incidents since the election and will investigate.

A racial backlash also unfolded after the election of President Barack Obama, America's first black president, in 2008. At the time, police documented alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts were delivered by adults, college students and even children.

Anti-Trump protests have erupted this week in cities including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago and New York.

"In order for it to die down, the impetus for it has to go away," said Segal. "We need our elected officials, our leaders, our community organizations to make sure that this ... rhetoric that has become normal over the past few months goes away."

Nov. 12, 10:30 a.m. Updated with University of Oklahoma suspension and Friday night and Saturday statements.