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Michigan State University Pulls Survey Following Student Outrage Over Questions Meant to Gauge Reactions to Racist Speech

Outrage poured out at Michigan State University Monday after a public relations and social media professor posted a series of survey questions that some students found offensive.

Saleem Alhabash sent the survey out to students in the College of Communications Arts & Sciences, the Lansing State Journal reported. The prompt required students to rate various comments from social media, Google and Reddit as based on how funny, stereotypical, prejudiced, offensive or positive they were. The survey was conducted as part of a study on the way people react to racist online speech.

Michigan State University student union building. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

There was a disclaimer on the survey that warned it contained “racially offensive” language. It also noted it was meant to “evaluate the level of aggressiveness for some statements that have been taken from the popular social media platforms.”

But those who attend MSU, who say the survey targeted Black students, feel the disclaimer isn’t enough and they’re fed up.

“The survey was very offensive,” student Jimiela Weatherly told WDIV at a forum held by the MSU Black Students’ Alliance Tuesday night. “It said, ‘I date black women because I don’t want to meet a father.’ So for them to make the assumptions that all black females don’t have a father, that’s very disrespectful.”

A junior who attends MSU tweeted several screenshots of the survey questions before it was removed.

“How do you expect us to feel safe and prideful that we go to Michigan State University. There’s a right and wrong way to go about these topics. This was definitely the wrong way,” she tweeted after noting the university “has been violating and degrading the black community these past couple of weeks.” Among the incidents is a noose fashioned out of toilet paper that was discovered in a Black student’s dorm room, which the Lansing State Journal reported was taped up just days before the survey went live.

One of the statements on the survey said, “Haha there is nothing ‘positive’ about N—ERS let alone the word that describes N—ERS.” Another said, “black people stole white people’s lips so white people stole black people’s freedom.” A third prompt said, “Just be a black woman and all of a sudden it’s easy to get into college and easy to get scholarships.”

michigan state university
(Photo: @iamroyalp/Twitter)

Still, Alhabash, who created the survey with some of his students, maintained his intent was not to upset the student body.

“This was in no way, shape or form the intent, the intent was to uncover these messages and shed the light that these messages do unfortunately exist in the real world,” Alhabash said to WNDU.

In a letter issued to students, faculty, staff and alumni Tuesday, the school President Samuel Stanley said the following.

“In the coming months, I will continue to work with students and others in the campus community as we undergo a strategic planning process, including an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. Your feedback will be critical to this plan moving forward,” it read in part after noting racist incidents are being investigated. “I want all Spartans to reach their full potential, educationally and professionally. That starts with an inclusive, safe environment here at MSU. We all have purpose in being here, and we need to engage one another with dignity and respect.”

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