ULM probes student role in Jena Six video

NEW ORLEANS – A north Louisiana university is investigating two of its students after a video surfaced on a student’s personal Web page depicting several white youths pretending to re-enact a racial beating.The brief, grainy video, posted Tuesday on YouTube.com, was related to the racially charged atmosphere in Jena, a central Louisiana town where a group of black youths were initially charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white student.

On the video, one of the students can be heard shouting racial epithets.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe said the video contained “reprehensible racist attitudes” that “in no way represent the great majority of University of Louisiana at Monroe students, who hold much more enlightened and progressive views.”

At a news conference Tuesday, Vice President of Student Affairs Wayne Brumfield said the college immediately began investigating the incident after a student alerted the college about the Web page on Monday.

The university did not disclose the names of the students. But Brumfield identified one as a female freshman nursing student from Alexandria and the other as a male upper-class student.

Later Tuesday, the nursing student told The (Monroe) News Star that it was a video she recently recorded that caused the outcry.

“This is so not me,” said Kristy Smith, 19, as tears poured down her face. “It wasn’t that we were making fun of the Jena Six incident. We were just fed up with it.”

Smith told the newspaper that she’s frightened. “People are telling me ‘I’m going to get shot.’ I’ve had to delete my Facebook and my e-mail address to stop getting those messages.”

Brumfield said the college is reviewing its Code of Student Conduct to determine if the students broke any rules.

He noted that the video was not shot on the college campus but on the banks of the Red River near Alexandria.

Smith said she has apologized to “the Facebook groups and blog groups,” for the posting and though racial epithets can be heard in the video, she adds she is not racist.

“I have just as many black students as I do white friends,” Smith said. “I’ve had to keep my cell phone off. My dad’s back home dying of cancer and I can’t call him.”

The university held a forum Tuesday evening to talk about race and the posting of “objectionable material” on Web sites and other public places. The university also said it plans to do more to teach students about “cultural diversity and racial sensitivity.”

Brumfield said while the university does not monitor social sites like Facebook, “we want to make students aware of the dangers of posting these things on Web sites.”

“These young people made a terrible decision. There’s a price to pay,” Brumfield said.