Northwest Missouri State University President Dr. John Jasinski released a statement today addressing a video circulating on social media depicting a prospective Northwest student appearing to reenact the death of George Floyd:
“Northwest Missouri State University is aware of the video circulating on social media that appears to re-enact the tragic incident that led to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The individuals involved exercised horrible judgment, and the content of the video was deeply offensive to our Bearcat community. As Bearcats, we stand for principles of inclusion and racial equality. The content of this video does not uphold those values. We expect more of the individual involved who is planning to attend our campus next fall. And we grieve with the family of Mr. Floyd, and all others, who have suffered loss by his death and the events that continue to unfold.
We firmly believe in principles of inclusion and civility and expect all members of our community to conduct themselves in a respectful manner. We also are a public institution that is bound to uphold the principles of free speech embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Courts have held that the First Amendment protects a wide range of expressive speech – even speech and other expressive conduct that may be offensive and hurtful. When such speech occurs, it is not our role to punish the speaker by depriving her of an education. Rather, our role is to educate, to advocate our own principles and have a more persuasive message than that fueled by repugnant speech.
A quote from Harlan Hodge, the husband of our Black Alumni Chapter president, Pamela Westbrooks-Hodge, punctuates our role: “Education is a daily confrontation with ignorance.” What better place to engage in that daily confrontation than that of an institution of higher learning? Northwest is located in the middle of the country and is a place where convergence occurs – urban and rural, viewpoints and predispositions, growth and enlightenment. We are all on a journey and have much work to do. Courageous conversations that will sting, along with action, is to what we all must commit.
We stand ready to engage with the individual involved when she arrives on our campus next fall, and others as well. Our hope and expectation is that an education at Northwest will help her – and all Bearcats – to learn about others, practice civil dialogue, grow in empathy and leave Northwest a responsible member of society.”