Ole Miss student Jordan Samson apologizes for racist Facebook comment, withdraws from University
Published 10:01 am Wednesday, October 5, 2016
University of Mississippi student Jordan Samson, who posted a racist Facebook comment in September that sparked campus-wide outrage and led to a student protest at the Lyceum, has issued a public apology, the university announced Wednesday.
Samson has withdrawn from the university voluntarily, giving the university permission to share that with the campus community.
“We as a university condemn the use of language that is threatening or racist, and we are committed to protecting our students and faculty,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We also believe in the power of higher education to transform individuals.”
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Samson “wanted to take responsibility for the impact of his post,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs.
Samson will still be part of the university community, working with the staff of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. He will work with the institute to “develop a plan that will provide him with learning opportunities and restorative justice activities.”
“Restorative justice is most effective when impacted parties are willing to openly discuss the harm that has been done,” said the institute’s academic director Jennifer Stollman. “I believe this can be a situation where offensive and harmful words can lead to a more powerful dialogue and true climate change for our campus community.”
The university’s chief diversity officer, Donald Cole, reinforced the issue isn’t about freedom of expression, but Samson choosing to take responsibility for his words and the impact they had on the community.
“The university prides itself on providing venues of free expression in which the marketplace of ideas flows freely,” Cole said. “Social media can be a challenging venue, for there, emotions often eclipse rationality, resulting in expressions that may be ‘legal,’ but certainly not expedient.”
Vitter echoed Cole’s statement.
“We are committed to the free exchange of ideas,” Vitter said. “When those ideas are offensive and even harmful, our commitment is challenged. In this case, the community responded by making our values clear — the values of the UM Creed, which remind us that we are a community that respects the voice and contribution of everyone. We find that this atmosphere of mutual respect is where we see the greatest learning.”
The controversy surrounding Samson started September 23, when a screenshot of a racist, threatening Facebook comment started making the rounds in the community and beyond, quickly going viral.
The screenshot was taken from a thread discussing protests in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Samson commented, “I have a tree with enough room for all of them if you want to settle this Wild West style,” referring to black protesters in the video.
University of Mississippi students occupied the Lyceum that afternoon in response to a statement Vitter released that they felt “failed to explicitly acknowledge and condemn” the Facebook comment.
Vitter met with student leaders following the protest and issued another statement condemning Samson’s comment.