Backlash after Kansas State University student wears ‘black mask’, uses ‘N-word’ to describe herself

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- A Kansas State University student has left the university after she took a Snapchat selfie of herself and a friend in what appears to be a black, cosmetic face mask.

The Snapchat picture was captioned: 'Feels good to finally be a N.....'

Many around campus shared the picture and condemned the student for being racist.

This is a screenshot of a Snapchat sent to FOX 4. The Snapchat selfie from a K-State student resulted in her leaving K-State because of what many perceived as the racist nature of the Snapchat.

This is a screenshot of a Snapchat sent to FOX 4. The Snapchat selfie from a K-State student resulted in her leaving K-State because of what many perceived as the racist nature of the Snapchat.

University leaders, realizing the turmoil on social media that was affecting the university and its students, responded on the university website that the student was no longer enrolled. (See statements below.)

Then, Thursday afternoon, the student issued an apology that could be seen by some on Facebook. She said the signs being displayed were an inside joke between friends.

"We had only meant for it to be taken in a funny way, but we clearly understand that what we said should never be joked around about. People shouldn't joke around about such a serious topic like this because it feeds racism," she said.

"We know what we did was wrong," she said at  the end of her social statement.

FOX 4 reached out to the student and asked her to comment on the support or criticism she has received, but has not received a response. WIBW-TV which covers news in Topeka, Manhattan and Emporia, reported that the student was a member of K-State's Beta Upsilon chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha. FOX 4 contacted ZTA and was told the student was not an active member.

"To clarify, she is not a member of Zeta Tau Alpha and has not been since spring 2015," said Ashley Sherman, Director of Communication. The sorority released an official statement below:

We have become aware that a former member of our chapter has posted racist comments on her social media channels. While she did join the Beta Upsilon Chapter at Kansas State University in 2013, she has not been a member since spring 2015 and is no longer affiliated with the organization in any capacity. Her words and actions certainly do not reflect the values and principles of Zeta Tau Alpha. Our Creed teaches us to look for the good in everyone and to seek understanding in order to gain true wisdom. Our Fraternity’s membership includes women of many races, nationalities and religions and we all strive to seek the noblest in every endeavor.

In a letter posted on the Kansas State University website, Dr Zelia Wiley, Interim Associate Provost for Diversity, writes that the student is no longer enrolled at K-State:

Dear students, faculty and staff,
On Sept. 15, the university received notice that a derogatory social message and photo was sent out via social media. The involved person is no longer enrolled at the university. It is our understanding the second individual in the photo is not associated with the university.

Immediately upon notification, the Campus Climate Response Team, or CCRT, which consists of representatives from the Office of Diversity, Office of Institutional Equity, Office of Student Life, the K-State Student Union and Division of Communications and Marketing, met to address this recent social media posting. This racially offensive photo with a derogatory message has upset the K-State family and is not in concert with our principals of community. Such messages on social media are harmful to all.

In cooperation with the Office of Student Life and the Office of Institutional Equity, or OIE, the university will reinforce its value for diversity and inclusion while also communicating our principles of community for all students, faculty and staff. As an integral part of the response to this concern, the university will offer support services to any affected student and also will contact the involved parties. This incident supports our continued proactive outreach and cultural training efforts to the students, faculty and staff. Additionally, our office is working diligently with the Student Governing Association, or SGA, its multicultural student coordinator and interested student groups to realize its Diversity 2025 goals, which include social justice.

The Office of Diversity mentors and advises our various multicultural student organizations, especially our core groups — the Black Student Union, or BSU; Hispanic American Leadership Organization, or HALO; Asian American Student Union; and Native American Student Association — who have shown leadership in raising the university's awareness to these incidents in a thoughtful way. We also support our affinity groups, Black Faculty Staff Alliance, or BFSA, Alianza, LGBTQ Faculty Staff Alliance and Indigenous Alliance who are not immune to such comments and yet they work to support and mentor our future leaders.

As members of the K-State family, we should always visualize and work toward a safe, welcoming environment for our community. I and other members of the CCRT welcome the opportunity to speak with our affected students and employees as we continue create a culture of inclusion for the entire K-State family.
Yours in service,

Dr. Zelia Wiley


Below is the first, original letter posted to the website from Dean Bosco:

Dear students, faculty and staff,

I have become aware that one of our students posted a racially offensive photo today on social media and used one of the most derogatory words in the English language. This photo has students, faculty, staff and other members of the K-State family upset. It rightly should, as there is no place for racism at our university, regardless of what the intentions may have been. K-State prides itself on being one family, no matter your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or abilities. All members of the K-State family deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

As always, I want to applaud our students for their maturity and actions when it comes to these issues. Our students, faculty, administration and the Office of Diversity have done phenomenal work in areas of diversity and inclusion on our campuses. I especially want to note the diligent work of the K-State Black Student Union and its efforts and legacy of addressing these issues in an effective and pragmatic way. Over the past few years, BSU has worked in unison with the Staley School of Leadership Studies on its Cats for Inclusion Campaign. This campaign works to create effective dialogue around issues of race, and teaches would-be allies on how to take an effective anti-racist stance: catsforinclusion.wordpress.com.

I also am proud of the preliminary work that a cross section of student leaders from various organizations, including the Black Student Union, Hispanic American Leadership Organization, Asian American Student Union, Native American Student Association and the Student Governing Association, has done to create a student initiative around issues of diversity. Even with these initiatives, we obviously still have work to do. We are firmly committed to the principles of community at Kansas State University, and it is important that we educate our students daily on these principles. We must do better, and we will do better.

Pat Bosco
Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students