UND: Racist photos protected by Constitution

For the second time in a week, a college campus is getting a lesson on constitutionally protected speech that many find distasteful.

The University of North Dakota has concluded that two apparently racist photos posted via Snapchat do not violate the school’s code of conduct because the speech is protected, the Grand Forks Herald reports.

The two racially charged photos went viral and led to black student leaders at UND holding a rally Friday to share their experiences with racism and ask for the university to adopt a zero-tolerance policy when matters, such as the two photos, come up. After the rally, some of the organizers met with UND President Mark Kennedy to talk about their concerns about the campus environment.

“While I appreciate the desire for such a policy, it is unachievable under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” incoming president Mark Kennedy wrote to students. “The challenge we all face is to find the balance between wanting to eliminate expressions of racism and bigotry and supporting the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. If we value freedom of speech, we must acknowledge that some may find the expressions of others unwelcome, painful, or even, offensive. We can, however, speak out and condemn such expressions, and we can work to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment.”

“I feel ashamed to go to this university this does not speak to me about what a flagship university of the state of North Dakota such as UND should be about,” Lauren Chapple, a UND student, tells WDAY.