In response to comments on the UR class of 2017 Facebook page post about the Confederate flag controversy, students and UR administrators have created a petition opposing some of the racist language posted on the social media page. The student who posted the offensive comments intended his remarks to be interpreted as sarcasm.

The petition, created by members of the Douglass Leadership House, has accumulated over 900 signatures. Students have also planned a march for Nov. 11 to draw attention to their statement about racism on campus.

The original post, which contained a picture of the Confederate Flag, spurred heated dialogue and debate about the appropriateness of the flag and if Papay was acting within his first Amendment right to freedom of speech. Papay, the circumstances surrounding the flag, and its removal from the window were covered in the Oct. 24 issue of the CT, “Confederate flag ignites controversy.”

The most offensive comments on the page, however, were apparently made sarcastically.

In a recent Chamber Boys interview on WRUR, they sat down with Nick Heinrich, who wrote the inciteful comments. He denied that the comments had been made sincerely.

“I was just trolling,” Heinrich said. “It was only a joke.”

Many students misconstrued his “humor,” and he eventually deleted the comments from the page.

President of the Douglass Leadership House and junior Amber-Danielle Baldie, who made the original post on Facebook, described her initial thoughts about how her group and other African-American student groups on campus responded to the incident.

Initially, Baldie was outraged at the comments and felt that the email Dean of Students Matthew Burns sent out was inadequate and did not do enough to support the students that were affected by the comments on campus.

“I felt like we didn’t have any allies on campus,” Baldie said. “Without the administration stepping up other student leaders and I felt like we had to take the issue further.”

After consulting other affected student groups, such as the Black Students Union and the Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness, students decided to take action. At a Diversity Roundtable discussion, which included Burns and Intercultural Center Director Michelle Thompson-Taylor, they developed a petition that clearly stated these groups’ commitment to fight racial discrimination and to have further dialogues and a march around campus to raise awareness for the issue.

Despite her initial frustration, Baldie acknowledged that UR and Burns have been behind the students every step of the way as they developed the petition.

Both Thompson-Taylor and Burns made it clear that the University’s policy is that racial and offensive speech, even if it is free, should not be used in discussions on race.

They further stated their belief that it is important for student groups such as the Douglass Leadership House to take actions like the petition and the march and they both supported the actions of these student organizations.

“The petition is being used to garner support against racism and racist dialogue,” Thompson-Taylor said. “This petition is just bringing to light what has happened and how these students feel about the issue.”

McGee is a member of the class of 2016.

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