STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) – Georgia Southern University (GSU) is doing damage control Monday after a video showed students burning books to protest a visiting author.
“It scared me,” said Mario Vaughn, a student at Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus. “It reminded me of a mock style KKK rally. I could not believe this was happening at Georgia Southern University.”
GSU’s President Kyle Marerro says the video is real and he is just as surprised.
“I am shocked,” he said. “Appalled and gravely disappointed in the actions of a small group of students who burned Ms. Crucet’s book,” said Marerro.
The President says students were encouraged — not required — to attend a presentation last week from Jennine Capo Crucet. Crucet is the author of Make Your Home Among Strangers.
In the book, she discusses her experience as a Latina and explains her view of white privelege. It is a required read for students in a First-Year Experience Class.
Marerro says one student asked Crucet about white privilege during her presentation. Later that night, he says students burned their books on a grill at a student apartment complex.
Marerro says he spoke with campus police officers who say no threats were made against Crucet. The president made the remark in response to rumors circling on social media that students gathered outside her hotel room.
Marerro says the university offered to provide extra security at an event the next day. Regardless, Crucet canceled, citing safety concerns, according to Marerro. He says Crucet was concerned about Georgia’s open carry laws.
Georgia Southern’s Student Government Association hosted a forum Monday at the university’s Armstrong Campus to address concerns about the video.
The president was there and says he cannot do much to punish the students, though many say they want the university to take action. The president says the students are protected by freedom of expression laws.
“I know some of you are not satisfied by my written statement,” he said. “Some of you would like to see more formal action taken against students who took part in the video and I can emphasize…My job is to protect the rights of all students.”
Crucet issued her own statement Friday saying she hopes GSU can “work to affirm the humanity of those students who might understandably feel unsafe in the aftermath of the event and the book burning.”
Georgia Southern’s Student Government Association is hosting another forum Wednesday on the university’s main campus.
“Georgia Southern is a giant melting pot of amazing students and my campaign motto is family matters and we want them to know that students matter,” said Jwan Smith, the president of the association.