University of North Dakota officials announced late Wednesday that they concluded an investigation into two racially charged Snapchat photos and that they have decided not to punish the students involved.
“After a full review of the information, the Code of Student Life and the laws pertaining to each incident, and after consulting with general counsel, [the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities] has concluded that neither incident constitutes a violation of the UND Code of Student Life,” the school wrote in a statement. The outcome was “driven by the Constitutional protection of free speech,” but officials wouldn’t disclose details of their findings.
This investigation’s conclusion differs from similar recent cases at other universities. Last month, a student from Belmont University in Nashville was quickly dismissed after he posted a Snapchat image with a threat toward black NFL players who protested during the national anthem.
At Kansas State, university officials disavowed a racially insensitive Snapchat picture posted by a student and a friend. That image showed the women wearing black clay masks with a racially offensive caption. Later, the school said one of the women, a sophomore, was no longer a student at the university. It is unclear whether she was dismissed. The other woman involved was not “associated with the university.”
The two UND Snapchat incidents occurred within days of each other in late September.
The first involved three students who allegedly locked a black student out of a dorm and took a picture on her phone with the caption, “locked the black bitch out.” And the second showed four students posing in blackface with the caption “Black lives matter.”
“As part of the conversation with student leaders, we talked about the concept of zero tolerance,” UND President Mark Kennedy said in a statement released following the investigation. “While I appreciate the desire for such a policy, it is unachievable under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Kennedy said that he was aware that students and other members of the community were hurt by the incidents and that he personally was “appalled” by the photos.