Dear Monmouth University Community:
It has been an emotional few weeks across our nation and around the globe as we mourn the death of George Floyd and acknowledge the troubling pattern of racism and injustice experienced by the Black community. At Monmouth, we have had to respond to allegations of racist behavior and racist social media posts made or shared by members of our own campus community, as well as by students planning to enroll this fall.
Let me be clear. Every incident that is reported to the University is: 1) referred immediately to various offices around campus, including the Office of Judicial Affairs, the Office of Equity & Diversity, and the Monmouth University Police Department; and 2) investigated aggressively. In addition, pursuant to the Attorney General’s April 5, 2019 Revised Bias Incident Investigation Standards, the Monmouth University Police Department reports all of these incidents to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office for additional review.
We have spent the last two weeks thoroughly investigating a variety of disturbing reports. Some of these investigations are complete and others are ongoing. While the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of student educational records and University policy prevents me from detailing personnel actions, let me report to the University community what I can.
In particular, I’d like to report back to you on our investigation into a specific screenshot shared on social media showing vile comments made by one of our students in a group text message. As part of our protocol, this incident was reported to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Office deemed that this was a bias incident and that under New Jersey Law the conduct did not rise to the level of the crime of bias intimidation. Our investigation established that the image shared on social media is a screen capture of comments made in a group chat in 2016 when the individual was a high school student. The incident was adjudicated at the student’s high school at that time. While that piece of context is important, it does not excuse the abhorrent behavior. We continued our investigation and found no evidence of any similar conduct by this student while enrolled at Monmouth or any conduct that put our community at risk. Based on the results of our investigation, we have taken – and will continue to take – appropriate action to address this matter.
I understand that many of you will want to know more about the specific actions we have taken in this and each of these cases, but I am simply not able to provide that information. What I can tell you is that we have taken swift and deliberate action in each instance, consistent with the steps outlined above, resulting in a range of consequences from educational discussions to rescinding the admission of an incoming student.
While these past few weeks have served as a painful reminder of how much more work we, as a University community, have to do, I assure you that Monmouth University is committed to providing a safe, inclusive, diverse, and genuinely welcoming community for all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and campus visitors.
Dr. Patrick Leahy