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MU student won't be disciplined for using racial slur on social media

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Ryan Famuliner
/
KBIA
The Francis Quadrangle on the university's Columbia campus.

A University of Missouri student won’t be disciplined for using a racial slur on social media after an investigation determined her comment was protected free speech, UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi said.

A screenshot containing the use of slur went viral during the fall semester, and led to protests from many students demanding that she be expelled from MU.

But, in a letter sent sent by email to to the campus community on Monday, Choi explained that a “thorough review” by the university’s Office of Institutional Equity had concluded that the offending message was protected by the First Amendment.

“Because we are a public institution, constrained by the First Amendment, the Office of Institutional Equity and the Office of Student Accountability and Support concluded the university has no grounds to discipline the student who sent the message, even though it is diametrically opposed to our values,” Choi said in the letter.

The university examined the origin and context of the message and concluded that the student’s racial slur was a direct message to her friend and was not communicated in a way that harassed any individual, Choi said.

The Missourian is not naming the student, who isn’t charged with a crime. Previous attempts to reach the student for comment have been unsuccessful.

Choi said he would invite students, faculty and staff to meet with him and discuss any concerns they may have about the decision.

“We are a university that welcomes individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives,” Choi said. “Our university community will not be defined by the actions of one individual, but instead by our deep and collective commitment to be welcoming to all.”

The student is believed to be the leader of a far right-wing student group.

In December, Choi condemned the racial slur, saying “The statement was reprehensible.” He also said he believed the university had acted quickly compared to 2015, when then-Missouri Student Association President Payton Head was called the N-word on campus.

Choi also said that it’s equally important to emphasize that the First Amendment has limits, and the university will take action when individuals experience harassment that violates its rules prohibiting discrimination.