Last fall, after a racist poster appeared on campus denouncing black men, a white student at Southern Methodist University created her own flyers, offering a cheeky endorsement of interracial dating. The university responded by investigating her for racial bias, punishing her severely.
The controversy began when an unknown person posted several racist flyers at SMU, warning white women against dating black men because “he’s much more likely to abuse you… to have STDs… and your kids probably won’t be smart.”
The posters reportedly drove some male football players to tears—but they prompted junior Emily Walker to write her own response. In protest, she created a satirical poster arguing that white women actually should date black men, hanging 150 copies around campus.
The posters claimed that white men were statistically likelier than black men to carry out mass shootings, and that children born to parents with “greatly differing genetics” were less likely to suffer from physical or mental disabilities. “Drum Roll Please…Black Men are More Likely to Sexually Satisfy ALL WOMEN. … Once you go black. You don’t go back,” she wrote, including a map depicting average penis size by continent.
Walker says that after she hung 150 of the posters on campus, she found herself under investigation by administrators. Some black male students reportedly felt the poster perpetuated sexual stereotypes about them, though it’s unclear whether their complaints prompted administrators to take action against Walker.
The probe stretched on for months, with the university eventually deciding to impose “one of the hardest punishments you can get at SMU,” putting her just one step away from suspension, Walker told local media. SMU also required her to write a 1,500 word “reflection paper” detailing what a more responsible response would look like, Inside HigherEd reported.
“I’m on thin ice,” she said. “Do I feel like I did anything wrong? No, I don’t. I put smiles back on those kids’ faces. … [But] they told me it added to a hostile environment and wasn’t good for the community.”
SMU has told other media outlets it cannot disclose information about specific disciplinary measures regarding students. By deadline, neither the university nor Walker had responded to Heat Street’s media inquiry.
Speaking generally, the university said in a statement: “One hallmark of a great university is its willingness to recognize freedom of expression on difficult topics, yet every university struggles with the question of balance when it comes to allegations of harassing and discriminatory speech. At SMU, incidents are investigated under SMU’s nondiscrimination and Title IX harassment policies on a case-by-case basis.”
But Walker told Inside HigherEd that she felt the university was attempting to silence her. “I can’t open my mouth, because if I do, it’s worth being suspended,” she said.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.