At least one Monmouth University student is no longer enrolled there after he was identified in a video with other, mostly white students using the n-word that then went viral across social media channels.
After BuzzFeed News contacted the school, Morganne Dudzinski, a spokesperson for Monmouth, said the student was "immediately contacted" by an official and "is no longer enrolled at the university." However, she could not confirm if the student was formally expelled, citing privacy laws about his student record.
The video shows a group of students going around and uttering the word "nigger" and then laughing about it. The students are believed to attend various schools in New Jersey, including Monmouth, Rutgers University, and Rowan University.
A sophomore attending Monmouth named Scharina Bencosme, 18, told BuzzFeed News that she and several students of color on campus got word of the video on social media earlier this week. She recognized one of the students because they were in the same class together. She then posted it on Twitter.
After the school became aware of the video and the name of the male student participating, Monmouth President Grey J. Dimenna sent the following memo to all students and faculty, stating that the use of "a racial slur" was "both disrespectful and deeply offensive."
Dimenna then went on to state that Monmouth is "reviewing the matter under the Student Code of Conduct and will take appropriate action."
Bencosme said that when she received the email this week, she and her friends were struck and dismayed by one clause Dimenna used: "While this video lacks context ... "
"We're upset our university hasn't really addressed the issue — or we believe it wasn't addressed properly," Bencosme said. "The email that was sent out ... [said] the video lacked context, which is the reason why we're so upset. In what context would it be OK or be excused, this racist behavior?"
She said as a person of color at a predominantly white college, she felt that she had to take on the responsibility of bringing attention to what she's observed to be "superficial, not-very-obvious racism on campus."
Bencosme said she had about 30 followers when she tweeted the video and did not expect it to go viral. "If nothing’s being done on campus, at least people know we’re not tolerating [it] anymore," she said.
She received several DMs from other students saying they were not at all surprised by the actions of some of the students in the video, and they resigned themselves to not seeing actionable consequences from the school.
However, after BuzzFeed News contacted Monmouth on Thursday, the school shared the news that the one identified student is no longer attending Monmouth. The school then shared the news with its students.
In response to the students' criticisms of the "context" language/clause that the school president used, Dudzinski said that it's "been misinterpreted."
"The meaning behind it was that a lack of context doesn’t excuse, nor will it stop the university from acting. The remainder of that sentence makes it clear that while the university didn’t know the context, we did not wait to act and were reviewing the incident under the Student Code of Conduct," she said.
Rutgers and Rowan universities also sent out memos this week.
Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of Rutgers, wrote that the school does "not tolerate hate speech or hateful behavior in any form" and that it will consult its policies to address "any violations" that are found.
The president of Rowan, Ali Houshmand, wrote to his students and faculty that while he has not yet been able to confirm that one of the students in the video attends his school, "using such offensive language in any manner is contemptible."
"Whether or not Rowan students are involved, it is imperative for the university to express unequivocally that this type of language and disrespect have no place among us and will not be tolerated," he said, before directing students to consult the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for more resources.
Rutgers University did not immediately return a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Jose Cardona, the vice president of university relations for Rowan University, told BuzzFeed News the investigation into the incident is still pending and the school is looking to speak with its alleged student in the video.
"We are still trying to verify the name of the individual described as being a Rowan student," said Cardona. "While the language used and students’ actions are deeply offensive, free speech is an issue in this case. Rowan, like all universities, have a student code of conduct that speaks to on- and off-campus behavior. Our investigation into the matter can continue once we have a conversation with the individual."