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The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Groups agree to discuss racism after controversy in DePaul Facebook group

Graham Nilles' Facebook post inadvertently spurred a controversial conversation in the DePaul Class of 2019 Facebook group Sunday.
A Facebook post about using the term “Chiraq” inadvertently spurred a controversial conversation in the DePaul Class of 2019 Facebook group Sunday.

A war of words ensued Sunday night in a DePaul Facebook group over the casual use of racially-charged language. After a series of public and private apologies from members involved, student leaders agreed to meet to discuss ways to better address racism on campus.

The Official DePaul University Class of 2019 Facebook page became a rhetorical battleground after DePaul student Graham Nilles addressed “kids that came to DePaul from the suburbs or out of state” as “another kid from the suburbs.”

“Please stop referring to any part of Chicago as ‘Chiraq.’ You are not from ‘Chiraq’ and you do not live in ‘Chiraq’ and you don’t understand the implications of comparing communities to an active war zone,” Nilles said in the post at about 4 p.m. Sunday.   

Minutes later, a freshman who asked not to be identified commented on the post, “I’m from Chiraq, n–.”  

Junior Michael Lynch responded to the freshman’s comment and said that the use of the term “Chiraq” and the “n” word were inappropriate.  

“If you are not black, do not say the word. I don’t care if black people are not around. If you feel the need and desire to say the word you should really examine yourself as to why,” Lynch said in the post. “Blacks deal with enough micro-aggressions on campus and having to correct someone every time someone says something offensive, which is often, is exhausting.”

After a series of other members of the group responded to his comment, the student wrote a longer post on the page defending his position and apologizing for his use of the “n” word.

His post also addressed Lynch specifically and said, “Equally so, I was offended by Michael’s anti-assumulation (sic) and judgement (of) my perceived race. I doubt he will apologize. Simply put, I think people should just learn to get along and not be so confrontational. I believe that as long as Michael understands the flaws in his logic, like I have identified mine, it was a valuable learning experience.”

His post was later deleted, and Lynch’s post was deleted by Facebook, citing Facebook Community Standards.

Junior Michael Lynch responds to a comment made by a freshman on the DePaul Class of 2019 Facebook group. The post was later deleted by Facebook.

By Monday morning, Dan Busen, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, wrote to Lynch apologizing for the freshman’s comments. The student is a member of the fraternity.

“Our fraternity does not agree with any of the statements or phrases that he utilized, and I promise we will hold him accountable for his poor choice of words and actions. We have members from all walks of life among us, with different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, beliefs and values; and we have zero tolerance for any discrimination that is imposed upon the people. I would like you to know that we are taking his actions very seriously and he will be reprimanded in accordance to his poor choice of words and inconsideration,” Busen said in the message.

Busen was not immediately available for comment.

When asked for comment, the freshman said, “honestly it was just a stupid joke on my part that people took very seriously. I’ve already seen very negative repercussions from this and would again like to remove myself and allow people to move past it.”  

Dean of Students Ashley Knight said she could not comment on specific incidents or complaints to the university because of federal privacy laws and student privacy considerations. She said in an email, “DePaul is a university community that is committed to fostering open discourse.  At the same time, we are also committed to being a community of speakers and listeners marked by compassion and mutual respect — a community mindful of the potential effects, both beneficial and harmful, of our words.”

She said that complaints of discrimination and harassment are taken seriously and that DePaul’s Code of Student Responsibility extended to conduct in “online communities.” Complaints against a student should be taken to the Dean of Students Office while complaints against a faculty or staff member should be directed to the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity.  

Lynch said that he, Busen and other black student leaders on campus agreed to meet soon to discuss better ways of addressing racism on campus.

“I would like us at DePaul to have these conversations on campus rather than on Facebook,” Lynch said. “Now it’s time to talk, to sit down and have these uncomfortable conversations. If we don’t sit down and talk about them, they’ll keep happening.”  

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    Myles Joseph KerriganFeb 3, 2016 at 12:57 am

    He said “niqqa”, not the actual n word which means that this article is shamelessly dishonest. The fact that people overreacted to an obviously facetious comment says more about the depaul student body’s inability to control their emotions and capability of understanding the intentions behind people’s words than it does anything else. Taking a joke seriously doesn’t make you a person worth taking seriously, it just makes you a joke.