By Greg Dingrando at KOAA-5
COLORADO SPRINGS –The racism controversy on the Colorado College campus is drawing attention nationwide.
Two students were suspended for making comments on the anonymous social media app called “Yik Yak.” Now, a students’ rights group is defending the suspended students.
The comments in question were made back in November. Not long after, the two students were singled out. News5 is told that the students owned up to it and apologized, but apparently that wasn’t enough.
The administration suspended the students for two years and banned them from campus — something the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) group said they think is ridiculous.
When the Yik Yak comments got going, students said there was no doubt some racial slurs were thrown around.
“They were targeting African American students saying how black woman are ugly and not beautiful. There was another one saying black people should go back to their cotton fields,” student Amairani Alamillo said.
But those weren’t the comments the students got in trouble for.
FIRE said one of the suspended students contacted the group and provided documentation on his suspension. They said that in response to the comment #blackwomenmatter, the student said, “they matter, they’re just not hot.”
“To suspend a student for 21 months for a small fairly innocuous joke about who he finds attractive is just absurd,” FIRE member Ari Cohn said. And some students on campus agree.
“I think it was immature of what they said, but I don’t think there was any racist or violent intentions and I think school went too far with this,” student Jacqueline Child said.
“Suspending them isn’t really going to teach them anything. It’s just going to tell them, ‘OK, you’ll be able to do it, just not here on this campus,'” Cristina Garcia said.
Others think the suspensions were justified.
“The administration needs to make that point that we are taking steps to end this and that it is a serious issue,” Alamillo said. “So, I think suspension of two years is fine.”
FIRE disagrees with this idea, and plans to fight it.
The group said the suspensions were a knee-jerk reaction to a sensitive subject, which they think was a huge overreaction and violation of freedom of speech.
“To punish a student at all, let alone so harshly for speech that would be clearly protected elsewhere, is why we’re involved with this,” Cohn said.
Both students are appealing the suspension, but some think the damage has already been done and that the controversy has destroyed Colorado College’s reputation, particularly when it comes to free speech.
News5 spoke with the school’s administration, who said they will not comment on disciplinary action. News5 asked to talk generally about “Abusive Behavior” and “Disruption of College Activities” policies that the students were suspended for, and they once again refused to make someone available.