Wake Forest University: Investigation into ‘Build a Wall’ Instagram Post


Wake Forest University

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Case Overview


In March 2019, a screenshot of an Instagram post was circulated on Twitter, where commenters described the content as “racist.” The post depicted a mock campaign advertisement, encouraging people to write-in a student’s name for class president. The post contained various mock campaign statements, including one that said the candidate wanted to “build a wall” between Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State. Winston-Salem is a historically black institution, and both schools are located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The day after the post went viral, Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch posted a reaction on Twitter. In it, Hatch noted the post appeared to be a parody. He then thanked students for reporting the post to Wake Forest’s Bias Response Team and promised an investigation. FIRE wrote to Hatch on March 28, 2019, calling on him to drop the investigation and reminding him that, in keeping with its free speech commitments, the university cannot punish potentially offensive but protected speech. On April 17, Hatch replied that Wake Forest’s “response to the Instagram post referenced in your letter is not in conflict with” the university’s free speech commitments.