Students, alumni express frustration with Larry Moneta's tweet on hate speech, freedom of expression

Larry Moneta, vice president of student affairs, issued a statement via Twitter on Thursday in response to a student's use of a racial epithet in a Snapchat.

His tweet early Friday morning about the idea of prohibiting free speech on college campuses, however, sparked a firestorm of responses on social media from students and alumni alike in the wake of a second racially charged incident coming to light later that morning.

"Freedom of expression protects the oppressed far more than the oppressors," Moneta stated in the tweet.

Moneta went on to say that those that want to ban hate speech should read "Free Speech on Campus," a book by Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley Law, and Howard Gillman, chancellors and professor of law at UC Irvine.

The Friday tweet by Moneta was posted before an email was sent to Central Campus residents at approximately 11:18 a.m. about the second incident, which consisted of a racial epithet being written on a student's door in the 300 Swift apartment complex.

However, many on social media have not responded kindly to Moneta's tweet. As of Friday evening, there have been more than 20 replies directly to Moneta's tweet in addition to being retweeted with comments by others.

Henry Washington, Trinity '17 and former president of the Black Student Alliance, took issue with the post.

"I think telling students who are asking you to do something about being targets of hate speech to ‘go read a book’ is intellectually dishonest and ethically irresponsible," Washington tweeted.

In response to Moneta's statement on the Snapchat posts that came to light Thursday, Washington also tweeted he will no longer donate to Duke until Duke creates a policy on hate speech that he says students "have been demanding for YEARS."

Responding to the racial epithet left on the student's door at 300 Swift, Moneta told The Chronicle Friday that he doesn't plan for a major initiative following the pair of incidents. 

“I don’t have a plan for a major initiative,” Moneta said. “You want to be careful—you want to react appropriately and not just run around to do things that have no meaning. I think we need to just sit back and think about what is going on that a few people would feel like that was a good way to behave.”

Moneta also added that he doesn't think the incidents reflect Duke's student body. 

Junior Mumbi Kanyogo, whose reply on Twitter is shown below, also took issue with Moneta's tweet.

Kanyogo wrote in an email Friday afternoon that she found Moneta's tweet to be representative of a trend in which the administration is "more concerned with the mental gymnastics of avoiding responsibility for policy failure" than ensuring that black students at the University are safe.

"Moreover, it is extremely insulting that Moneta thinks it's appropriate to direct students to a reading on free speech from Yale all whilst ignoring DUKE students' calls for compassion and a comprehensive hate and bias policy," she wrote.

Moneta declined a request to comment on his Friday morning tweet.

Check back for updates. 

Bre Bradham contributed reporting.

Ben Leonard profile
Ben Leonard

Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor 

A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks. 


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