Grand View Statement on Racist Social Media Post

June 17, 2020

A message from President Henning.

Earlier this month, Grand View University was made aware of photos circulated on social media depicting one of our students with a racial slur added to the image. The racist language was abhorrent and we were shocked and angered by it. The images caused great pain to many members of the Grand View community, our city and beyond. The pain is real. We cannot ignore that fact.

We immediately launched an investigation into the situation. The student publicly denied having any involvement in the addition of the racist language to the photos and further denied posting the images on social media, all of which took place a few years before enrolling at Grand View. While the images circulated recently included screenshots to make it appear like a post on the student’s social media account, our extensive investigation uncovered evidence supporting the student’s side of the story.

Prior to closing our investigation, we invited several members of our Diversity Advisory Committee to review the investigation process to ensure that the course of the investigation was free of bias. Please see their statement regarding the investigation below.

Although Grand View University is limited as to what it can say regarding the final outcome of the investigation and any corresponding disciplinary action by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, we want the members of our community, our city and beyond to know that we take this situation very seriously and have taken appropriate action according to our policies and procedures to address this situation. To be clear, Grand View does not tolerate offensive, hurtful, or racist language or behavior. Actions taken were consistent with this stance.

The Grand View community must now use this incident as a directive to draw us into the larger story of racial strife in our society. We will look inwardly at our own culture and actions and work on ways we can improve.

We will review our student judicial system to make sure it is fair and unimpaired by implicit bias. We will consider if our student code of conduct should create a different process for addressing accusations of racist acts. We will consider the level of transparency in our student disciplinary proceedings so that the campus community and the public can trust our student judicial system. This occurrence also revealed that our code of conduct does not specifically address behavior that occurred prior to becoming a student at Grand View.  Thus, we will consider if our code of conduct should address such behavior and how it should address it.

We intend to have our students be part of this comprehensive review process. Engaging in life at a university should be practice for our students who will face bigger issues in their lives beyond Grand View. The issues raised by this incident mirror the important conversations taking place across society in general.

Our role as educators is to help our students become better global citizens and humans by giving them exposure to ideas, cultures, races and people whose lives and experiences are different than their own. Our commitment to helping students of color be successful predates this incident, but is now stronger than ever. We will use this time to generate constructive dialogue that can lead to positive change and healing.

Statement from Grand View University’s Diversity Advisory Team:

Racism is a very real issue in our society that impacts our university and the broader community. On Monday, June 1, a highly offensive picture featuring a current Grand View student was posted on social media.  We acknowledge the pain and trauma caused by this image to many of our students, faculty, and staff, as well as the community at large.  In recognition of these impacts, it is important to know who we are.

The Diversity Advisory Team was formed in fall 2019 to craft a new diversity agenda for Grand View.  The group represents a broad range of backgrounds, identities, and perspectives.  A subset of the Team comprised of Dr. Josh Call, Dr. A’ndrea Wilson, Alex Piedras, Myke Selha, Megen Johnson, and Rob Barron was asked to provide oversight of the investigation of the incident to make sure it occurred with integrity and without bias. We were not asked to make judgment on the student nor were our viewpoints used in the decision.

We met with Dr. Jay Prescott and Dr. Jason Bauer to review the evidence Dr. Bauer uncovered in the investigation. We were provided all evidence gathered, in addition to the procedures used to guide this process. We asked questions and requested additional evidence which Dr. Bauer sought out. It is our judgment that the investigation was thorough, handled without perceivable bias, and done in recognition of the gravity of the incident.

While we believe this process was handled without perceivable bias, we recognize that our current policies do not accurately capture the expectations for the attitudes or actions of current or prospective students. We have been asked by President Henning to lead a process this fall to examine our current policies and recommend changes so that Grand View can be responsive to all our students. That process will be inclusive of students, as well as staff and faculty.  The work of reflecting and critiquing our process and positions is ongoing. No decision can heal the pain this incident caused and we are committed to making Grand View a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable community.