Months after Larry Moneta deleted his Twitter account following pushback to a controversial tweet about free speech, he has now put his Facebook account “on hiatus” after dispatches from his visit to Duke Kunshan University drew student criticism Thursday.
Moneta, vice president for student affairs, posted a series of three photos from his trip that included captions about “reasons to move to China… NOT!” Screenshots of his posts made their way onto the Duke Memes for Gothicc Teens Facebook group and prompted a statement from the Asian Students Association.
“It’s obvious to us from the posts that they are, at best, very culturally insensitive and, at worst, very racist,” said senior Michelle Li, president of the Asian Students Association.
Moneta addressed the posts in an email to The Chronicle Thursday evening.
“My poor attempt at humor was foolish on my part and I truly apologize,” he wrote. “In my previous post I had just commented on the loveliness of the country and the people and that represents my genuine feelings about China.”
The first post depicted two bags of Lays chips, one with a flavor of Mexican Tomato Chicken flavor and another with Italian Red Meat flavor, with the caption “Reason to move to China… NOT!”
Moneta made two more posts, one showing a measurement of Kunshan’s air quality and the other showing a squat toilet. Both posts were accompanied by a similar caption as the first photo.
Moneta told The Chronicle that he put his Facebook account on hold as he reflects on his social media presence.
“I’ve put my FB ‘on hiatus’ for awhile as I think through what is appropriate for me with regard to social media,” he wrote in an email.
This is not his first brush with criticism on social media. A tweet Moneta sent in April drew complaints from students and alumni when he encouraged “those who believe that colleges and universities should prohibit hate speech” to read a book he linked in the tweet. The tweet came after a student posted a racially charged Snapchat story, which was shared to the Facebook meme group.
His Twitter account subsequently disappeared last spring. It was in response to “too much anonymous hate,” Moneta wrote to The Chronicle Thursday night.
Li said she viewed Moneta’s Facebook posts as being part of a larger trend.
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“He’s supposed to be our representative at the administrative level, and yet here he is making these types of comments,” Li said. “It’s almost a mockery of the type of student labor and work that we do... At this point, it’s just a pattern and we wanted to call him out on that.”
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president of public affairs and government relations, did not respond to request for comment in time for publication.
Moneta announced in August that he would leave his position after the end of the academic year despite his term being set to end June 30, 2021. He came to Duke in 2001 from the University of Pennsylvania.
He has been in China since this past weekend, when he informed the student body of his trip in an email about Durham’s impending snowstorm.
“I write this as I’m en route to Shanghai and a visit for the week to Duke Kunshan University,” he wrote. “I’ll be thinking of all of you in the days ahead and wish you warmth, safety and the comfort of each other.”