Michigan State University professor sends out survey containing racist, offensive statements

Survey part of study to see how students react to racist online speech

Michigan State University (WDIV)

EAST LANSING, Mich. – A survey sent out by a Michigan State University professor sparked outrage because it contained racist and offensive statements.

The survey was part of a study to see how students react to racist online speech.

Professor Saleem Alhabash posted the survey Monday. It asked students to rate statements based on how stereotypical, funny or offensive they were. The survey contained racial slurs.

"The survey was very offensive," Jimiela Weatherly said. "It said, 'I date black women because I don't want to meet a father.' So for them to make the assumptions that all black females don't have a father, that's very disrespectful."

Alhabash apologized for the survey.

"The intent was to uncover these messages, and shed the light that these messages do unfortunately exist in the real world," Alhabash said.

Many students didn't understand the intent of the survey.

"For somebody of color who identifies as a black man, I found it offensive, especially since you work for the university that I pay to go to," Andrei Nichols said.

The university handled another incident this week when a black student found toilet paper hanging outside her dorm room that she said resembled a noose.

President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. released a statement:

"Our community has been affected in the past several days by incidents causing concern and anger.

"I, too, am concerned, because a safe, inclusive and respectful campus is my top priority. Hate has no home at Michigan State. We want every individual to feel welcomed, valued and heard.

"Recently the greater campus community has experienced vandalism at MSU Hillel, our center for Jewish student life; the presence of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on campus last week for a presentation to a class; an instance of racial bias reported from Bryan Hall over the weekend; and a survey in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences that offended students.

"Some of these actions may not have grown from negative intent or malice, but it's important for us all to remember the difference between intent and impact. Regardless of intent, there is still an impact being felt across campus.

"These situations have disrupted a sense of safety that should exist for everyone. Building inclusive communities is at the core of our values, and the impact of recent events cannot be underestimated.

"I want to personally let you know the concerns of our campus community are being taken seriously. Investigations by both the MSU Police Department and our Office of Institutional Equity are taking place, and we are providing support to those who are affected. We will be responsive to these issues and will not ignore the effect they are having on our community. It is important to hold ourselves accountable for being respectful, culturally sensitive and informed.

"Any member of the MSU community found responsible for a bias incident will face disciplinary action in accordance with university policies.

"Tonight, the Black Student Alliance  is hosting a community forum in collaboration with the Associated Students of MSU to discuss some of these issues and their impact. Having a forum for discussion and listening is important if we want to create change.

"In the coming months, I will continue to work with students and others in the campus community as we undergo a strategic planning process, including an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. Your feedback will be critical to this plan moving forward.

"I want all Spartans to reach their full potential, educationally and professionally. That starts with an inclusive, safe environment here at MSU. We all have purpose in being here, and we need to engage one another with dignity and respect."