FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Several Colorado State University students appeared in blackface in a picture on social media over the weekend, but the university said in a statement that their First Amendment rights prevent them from being punished.
School officials acknowledged that the picture – which showed three white men and one white woman appearing in blackface, with the caption "Wakanda forevaa" – "has caused a great deal of pain to members of our community."
"We have heard from many of you —and we hear you," the university said in a statement. "Moreover, we respect your voices. We know that images like this one — whether consciously racist or not — can perpetuate deliberate racism and create a climate that feels deeply hostile."
But while the post "runs counter to our principles of community," the university said, "it does not violate any CSU rule or regulation." The names of the students have not been released.
Tay Anderson, a Denver community organizer and Denver School Board candidate, posted a screenshot of the picture on Facebook on Monday.
The names of the students have not been released. The university said the students' First Amendment rights prohibit the school from punishing them.
The university said it was committed to "respecting every member of our community" and that faculty and staff have been asked to share their "personal wisdom" on the issue. The university also said it would have an announcement next week about "planned events and conversations" over the issue.
"We are all here at CSU to learn, and we believe that this can be a powerful learning moment that leads to healing and reconciliation. We urge every member of our community to listen, and to hear, all the voices that make up this wonderful, diverse campus family so we can move forward together, stronger than ever.
CSU students and alum spoke out against the blackface photo on social media and were critical of the university's decision to not punish the students.
So some students at CSU posted a picture, essentially in Blackface, and the new president basically said “yea that’s not cool but it’s cool cause they can post whatever they want”. Outrageously disappointed as an alum.
— toni. (@toninianne) September 11, 2019
Some students who go to CSU posted pictures on Instagram in blackface. This is extremely embarrassing, and I am ashamed that they go to our school. To put the cherry on top the school can’t even punish them. Gross.
— Graeme Schroeder (@grvyschrodinger) September 11, 2019
CSU students post themselves in blackface, and the president of the university sends and email to students saying people can post whatever they want to post. Once again, CSU disappoints me.
— Shaylur™ (@Shaylur1) September 11, 2019