Students and supporters of Kennesaw State University student Elijah John (center) look on as he talks to reporters on Tuesday about a racist social media post he says targeted him. ERIC STIRGUS / ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM

KSU students make demands after racist post

More than two dozen Kennesaw State University students and supporters gathered on campus Tuesday to demand the school do more to improve the environment for students of color and diverse backgrounds after a racist social media post targeting an African-American student made the rounds on campus.

The 35,000-student university began an investigation last week after discovering derogatory and discriminatory posts about an African-American, Islam and Judaism. The post of the African-American student showed the student sitting in a classroom with an arrow pointed at his face, with the words, “Need to call the Klan to solve this issue” underneath it.

“He threatened my life and I’m not OK with that,” Elijah John said about the culprit during a news conference on Kennesaw’s campus. John, 22, is a KSU senior who said it was him in the racist post.

KSU told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Levi Smith, the student John said took the photo, is no longer a student at the university. The university declined to discuss if the student was expelled, which John demanded, or if he left voluntarily. Efforts to contact Smith via social media were unsuccessful Tuesday. John was unaware of Smith’s departure and planned to discuss it with university administrators.

The university said the investigation is ongoing and declined Tuesday to discuss its status.

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Channel 2's Chris Jose spoke with students who say they are worried about their safety.

John, a marketing major, said he wants KSU to offer a diversity course for all incoming students. He compared the course to diversity training Starbucks required its employees to take last year after a store manager in Philadelphia had police remove two African-American men from the property.

John was joined Tuesday by Cobb County’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and KSUnited, a student group. They said KSU has historically made inadequate efforts to address issues involving race. The civil rights group also protested KSU’s decision to keep cheerleaders from protesting against police brutality during the national anthem by keeping them off the field during the anthem. About 22 percent of KSU’s student body is African-American, according to state data.

KSU’s new president, Pamela Whitten, wrote a blog post Tuesday that said “discrimination in any form is unacceptable.”

“We each have a responsibility to make our campuses safe and welcoming to everyone,” Whitten wrote. “The best universities come together when their beliefs are challenged, and together, as students, faculty, staff, and alumni, we are strong. We are a family and the KSU family takes care of one another.”