Colorado State University won't punish students who posed in blackface
© CSU/YouTube

Colorado State University's president wrote in a letter to students this week that the school will not punish several white students who were seen posing in blackface in a photo that surfaced online.

In a lengthy email, university President Joyce McConnell explained that CSU's policy on speech was clear that social media postings were outside the jurisdiction of school authorities, while acknowledging that such photos could create a hostile climate for minority students on campus, according to The Denver Post.

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Her email comes after a Snapchat photo depicting four unidentified white students in blackface with the caption "Wakanda forevaa," a reference to the Black Panther film and comic book series, circulated on social media.

“Because of the long and ugly history of blackface in America, this photo has caused a great deal of pain to members of our community,” McConnell wrote, according to the Post. “We have heard from many of you — and we hear you. Moreover, we respect your voices. We know that images like this one — whether consciously racist or not — can perpetuate deliberate racism and create a climate that feels deeply hostile."

“We also affirm that personal social media accounts are not under our jurisdiction. Our community members — students, faculty and staff — can generally post whatever they wish to post on their personal online accounts in accordance with their First Amendment rights," she added.

McConnell went on in the letter to urge students to use the controversy caused by the photo, which the Post reports appeared on social media over the weekend, as a learning experience.

“We are all here at CSU to learn, and we believe that this can be a powerful learning moment that leads to healing and reconciliation. We urge every member of our community to listen, and to hear, all the voices that make up this wonderful, diverse campus family so we can move forward together, stronger than ever," she wrote.

Virginia's Gov. Ralph Northam (D) was the center of a controversy earlier this year after his school yearbook was revealed to have contained an image of a man wearing blackface posing next to a fellow student in a Ku Klux Klan costume.