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Emotions high as students react to online video

Published: Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

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Stacy Reeves - The Battalion
Students ask questions and listen to reactions at a forum discussing a controversial online video posted by A&M students. The forum, was led by Tito Guerrero, vice president and associate provost for diversity, in Rudder Tower on Tuesday night.

Emotions ran high Tuesday evening, as more than one hundred students, faculty, staff and members of the Texas A&M administration gathered in Rudder 601 in response to a racist video released on the Internet by three A&M students.

"What we need to work on is affecting change," said Sommer Hamilton, a graduate communication student. "It's good that we are all here, but we're preaching to the choir. I want to find a way to take this issue to the people who don't come to these events."

The video depicted a student with shoe polish on his face, acting as a slave caught using his "master's" Internet. The "master" then proceeded to whip and abuse the student. An alternate ending showed the "master" sodomizing the "slave."

In a letter to Aggie students, faculty and staff, A&M President Robert M. Gates described the video as "so utterly disgusting that . . . any member of our Aggie family would be outraged and ashamed if they viewed it."

Tito Guerrero, vice president and associate provost for diversity, said Gates could not attend the meeting because he was out of town.

Several people in attendance said the A&M administration has not done enough to combat the issues facing A&M.

"It's a structural and cultural problem that extends from President Gates to the lowest administrator, and we must demand change," said Rogelio Saenz, head of the sociology department.

Saenz said efforts to recruit students and faculty members of color have largely failed. He also said actions taken by the administration have not produced results.

Roxanne Longoria, the former president of the Hispanic President Council and veteran of several diversity committees, said racist issues have come up several times and that A&M is too tolerant of them.

"It's time for A&M to develop a no-tolerance policy toward these actions that deface A&M as a whole," said Longoria, a senior biomedical science major.

Racist actions reflect negatively on more than just the individuals who take part, said Kristen Sharp, a senior history major.

"You hear about them (racist events at A&M) in the news," she said. "The different student associations that talked to me before I enrolled here made me aware of them, too."

Sharp said she believes the creators of the video should be expelled from the University.

"With regard to free speech, it would be different if their speech wasn't harming our community and the reputation of the University," Sharp said. "If they allow them to stay, the University is condoning this type of behavior."

Several members of the A&M chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that, while the video was hateful and despicable, the University could not punish the students without violating their freedom of speech.

Andrea Boudreaux, part of the University's recruitment and retention committee, said she feels it is important to tell minority students about A&M's racial issues before they are enrolled.

"I would never recommend it to a minority without warning them of the racial situation here and the problems that they as minorities will face," Boudreaux said.

Dean Bresciani, vice president of student affairs, said that given the reactions to the video, the opportunity to vent those emotions is important in itself.

"But what came through is that we need to accomplish more than just venting," Bresciani said. "The challenge now is figuring out what that is within the boundaries of the law."

After the forum some students went to Cain Hall to further discuss the issue.

Dalton Boutte, a senior sociology major, said the video exemplifies the direction cultural and ethnic acceptance is headed on this campus.

"Creating an administrative position responsible for diversity would seem to be a legitimate effort on the part of the administration, but how many of my fellow students can tell me any of the initiatives that office is responsible for?" Boutte said.

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