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Texted slur stirs alarm at Georgia Southern

A student at Georgia Southern University shared an allegedly racist student text message that caused concern on campus.

The student, in screening a new roommate, mistakenly sent out a text to the wrong person, in which she used the slur.

The student apologized, saying she meant to type “triggerish” but that was autocorrected by her phone to the slur.

“I meant to say triggerfish, meaning like, you seemed really cool nothing that triggered a red flag! I’m so embarrassed I apologize,” Courtney Schaefer said by phone.

Friday, university president Shelley C. Nickel sent a message to the community saying “the use of such racist comments is offensive” and doesn’t reflect university standards.

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But Georgia Southern students Marah Giddens and Alexandria Duvet feel a press release isn’t enough, and both said they wanted to know whether further action would be taken.

“These things have been happening on our campus and campuses all over the country,” Giddens said. “If someone isn’t punished for their racism and bigotry then what will ignite a change?”

The university declined to comment about whether there were plans for further action.

Will Creeley, with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said there ares different ways universities can choose to handle such incidents depending on severity, pervasion and persistence.

“The basic rule is that public universities like Georgia Southern are government actors and they are bound to uphold the First Amendment on campus,” he said. “At a public university bound by the First Amendment, the use of a racial slur might be protected speech.”

But, he said, the university is also obliged to abide by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act Of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin.

“Under Title VI, Georgia Southern has to take action if one student is creating a hostile environment against another student,” Creeley said.

“If a student continues to use that slur or does other things to that student that makes it unreasonable for that student to continue to use the dorms or attend the university, then you’ve established a hostile environment.”

The case is similar to that of Natalia Martinez, a Georgia State University soccer player who withdrew from university early this year after receiving backlash from students for using a racial slur on a social media post.

Martinez was suspended from the soccer team and voluntarily dropped out of her courses after a petition with more than 1,000 signatures to expel her.

There’s a third option, Creeley said, which would be of more value to all students.

“[Georgia Southern] should also recognize that students coming to college can be educated. In some ways, discipline is allowing the student to come off easy, the work towards education is arguably more productive,” he said.

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