York College investigating allegations of racist social media posts by students

Signs block the entrances to York College, Thursday, March 19, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo
  • York College is investigating several social media posts alleged to be by students.
  • The posts in question involve a racial slur and a "White Lives Matter" shirt.
  • Proceedings of disciplinary hearings are protected by FERPA.

York College is investigating social media posts after multiple Twitter accounts contacted the school and alleged that its students, including a female athlete, posted racist content online.

But the father of the athlete said Saturday through a Facebook message that what's being said about his daughter is "grossly twisted" and that it "in no way whatsoever represents who she is."

The college is determining if the posts violated the school’s student code of conduct, as multiple universities across the country address allegations of racist social media posts by their respective students.

Friday, York College President Pamela Gunter-Smith released a statement regarding the social media posts being shared.

“Racist social media postings made by several York College students are now circulating among our community,” Gunter-Smith said. ”This reflects a national trend by some at colleges and universities intended to expose individuals with racist views. Those circulating here, in particular one that uses a racial slur, cut deeply into the collective soul of our community. Whether they were done in jest or to make a political statement does not matter. Let me be clear. It is not okay. It is not acceptable. There is no place for this at York College.”

The post that Gunter-Smith described as the one that used a racial slur is alleged by Twitter user @DreamChasinVard to be from an athlete at York College. In the post, DreamChasinVard shared a Snapchat picture of a woman he claims is a female athlete at York College in which she wrote, “You’re a (n-word),” over a selfie.

York College’s verified Twitter account replied to the accusation.

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“This post has been brought to the attention of campus administration and is being reviewed. Please know that the values of York College of Pennsylvania are rooted in inclusivity and respect for our diverse community of learners and educators,” the school's post stated.

The York Dispatch is not naming the athlete because it was not able to independently verify if the posts were genuine. 

When reached Sunday via text message, the student-athlete declined comment and directed all questions to York College administration.

She did not respond Monday when asked if she had been contacted by York College about an investigation and whether she was the woman in the photo that includes a racial slur.

When reached  Saturday through Facebook, her father said the accusations being made did not represent who she is and were being twisted and modified.

After attempts to reach the athlete, York College athletics spokesperson Scott Guise demanded that any further attempts to talk to the athlete go through him. 

Mary Dolheimer, York College’s chief spokesperson, said that there was no estimate for when the review would be closed and that proceedings of student disciplinary hearings are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

“There are several posts that are being looked at to determine if students violated our Student Code of Conduct,” Dolheimer said in an email. “We are gathering information at this time, so I have no timeframe for completion.” 

DreamChasinVard did not respond to a Twitter request to discuss his allegation. Later Wednesday morning, after the original tweet, DreamChasinVard’s account tweeted that he and the athlete exchanged direct messages about his claim.

"Y’all love being racist in public but apologizing in private,” the account tweeted. 

Students walk on the York College campus Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. Enrollment decline has been a reality for colleges and universitiesÊacross the nation, including those in York County. Bill Kalina photo

Under York College’s student code of conduct, harassment is one of the potential misconducts subject to sanctions. These include violations of the school's Anti-Discrimination/Ethnic Intimidation Policy, which states “All students are encouraged to participate in College activities without regard to sex, race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, handicap, social affiliation, or age. York College does not tolerate and takes a firm position against all forms of discrimination as noted.”

Sanctions for violations of the school’s student code of conduct range from an official warning to expulsion. Under the loss of privileges sanction, a student can be suspended from an athletic team.

Incoming freshman student-athletes at Marquette University and Xavier University recently had their athletic and academic offers rescinded after making racist social media posts.

Penn State University  dealt with a similar issue when a video alleged to be a Penn State student surfaced where racist remarks were made from a car that drove past a protest after the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minnesota police.

An online petition signed by nearly 30,000 people requested Penn State take disciplinary action against the student, but  university President Eric J. Bannon said in a statement that the school “cannot exact a legal punishment without both violating the law or giving up the rights that protect our democracy. Honor codes provide expectations, we can work to educate and condemn, but most speech is outside of our rights to sanction.” 

York College’s verified Twitter account also responded to a post by Twitter user @barbiebry_ that alleged another student posted a photo of a man wearing a shirt that reads, “White Lives Matter” and includes a fish in the center of the shirt. 

In 2016, the White Marlin Marina in Ocean City, Maryland, made news by selling the controversial shirts but told The Daily Times the shirts were meant to promote marlin conservation.

That post, too, is under review, York College stated in a reply on Twitter. 

— Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.