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Duke investigating racist printout hung in Brown as disciplinary issue

Duke is investigating the racist printout hung Saturday in Brown dorm as a potential violation of the Community Standard and the Policy on Prohibited Discrimination and Harassment, administrators wrote to undergraduates on Tuesday.

On Saturday, a printout of George Floyd’s toxicology report was hung beside a photo of Floyd’s face on the third floor of Brown dorm. The printout was hung on a Black History Month-themed bulletin board.

Now, Duke is investigating the printout as a disciplinary issue, according to an email from John Blackshear, dean of students and associate vice president for student affairs, and Jeanna McCullers, senior associate dean of students and director of the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. 

“Any conduct outcomes will be confidential under FERPA,” according to the email, although OSC will report aggregate conduct data from this academic year in August. If Duke doesn’t identify a student responsible for the incident, the University will inform the community by April 15, administrators wrote.

The email contains details about the incident. It is the first time administrators have directly communicated with the entire student body about the hanging of the flier, although Blackshear discussed it with The Chronicle on Sunday.

“The flyer’s contents—which appeared to be a toxicology report from George Floyd’s autopsy—had handwritten remarks that commented on the May 2020 death of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis,” Blackshear and McCullers wrote.

Individual items on the toxicology report were underlined and the person wrote notes insinuating that Floyd was responsible for his own death, The Chronicle reported Sunday. 

Students were initially frustrated with Blackshear’s handling of the situation after he met with students Saturday afternoon. Attendees at that meeting said that Blackshear characterized the incident as a matter of opinion.

Blackshear told The Chronicle on Sunday that he was clear that the incident was meant to “distress the community.” 

The email follows recommendations from a Duke task force last summer to be more transparent to students.

“This communication follows the recommendation of the Summer 2020 Hate and Bias Working Group to provide more transparency to the student community in cases of anonymous acts of bias,” Blackshear and McCullers wrote.

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