DALLAS (CN) - White students at Texas A&M University shouted racist slurs at visiting black high school students from Dallas on Tuesday and must be disciplined or expelled, a Texas state senator said.
State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, an attorney, said he was informed of the incident on Tuesday by Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp.
Sixty high school juniors from the Uplift Hampton Preparatory charter school were approached by white Texas A&M students, who made it known they "were not welcome" on campus.
"The initial confrontation began when a white female student approached two female African American Uplift Hampton students to ask their opinion of her earrings, which were Confederate flag replicas," West said in a statement Thursday.
"This was exacerbated by a group of white, male and female students, who within earshot of the first event, told a larger group of the high school visitors, part of the Road to College at Uplift Education Program, to 'Go back where you came from.' They continued their taunts by using the most well-known racial slur that's directed toward African Americans and also made other references to the Confederate flag."
West said Texas A&M officials who accompanied the high school students reported the incident, which is under review by executive-level administrators. He said a campus officer initially said the Texas A&M students were exercising their right to free speech, but a report was made.
The incident will damages Texas A&M's years-long push to increase recruitment and enrollment of minority students at the traditionally white and conservative public university.
School administrators have increased minority scholarship funding and opened 10 prospective student centers at urban centers in the Texas. They have promoted tutoring and support services through the Department of Multicultural Services and established a website to report hate-based incidents: http://stophate.tamu.edu.
West said the incident "can undo whatever good" A&M has done.
"When those students' stories are told to parents and friends, they could undoubtedly further the belief that the home of the Aggies has a campus environment that has been hostile to black students; that, is those who are not athletes," West said.
Texas A&M President Michael Young said he was "outraged and tremendously disappointed" by the students' conduct.
"I deeply regret the pain and hurt feelings this incident caused these young students. Be assured that we take such allegations very seriously," Young said in a statement Wednesday.
"Our police department responded to the scene following the reported incident and we are currently fully assessing it. In addition, we had administrators and students from campus who met with our visiting guests to assure them that they are welcome and respected by the vast majority of Aggies. This troubling incident will be thoroughly investigated to the fullest extent possible and appropriate action will be taken."
Young said the behavior "goes against our A&M core values" and that he understands "that a deeper discussion about freedom of speech and inclusion needs to take place."
Charter school operator Uplift Education's CEO Yasmin Bhatia said she was "deeply disappointed" by the incident.
"We are proud of our scholars for the grace and composure with which they responded to the college students who chose to engage in disrespectful and unacceptable manner," Bhatia said in a statement Thursday.
"While we appreciate the swift response by the Texas A&M leadership, it is my hope that we broaden the conversation at colleges locally and across the country about increasing inclusion and cultural awareness programs so that all students can feel safe and welcome regardless of their ethnicity."
West says he expects a response from Texas A&M administrators that is "swift and similar" to those taken at the University of Oklahoma. School administrators there quickly expelled two members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and threw the fraternity out of its house after a 9-second video showing fraternity members on a bus chanting "there will never be a nigger in SAE" went viral last year.
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