CARBONDALE — Students and administrators at Southern Illinois University found themselves concerned over the weekend over yet another video released in reference to May 2, a date that broke into the community conversation after it appeared with anti-debt graffiti on Faner Hall a week ago.

The video, which targeted black students at SIU, circulated on social media platforms after it was uploaded to YouTube by anonymous user using the handle ATO AZO.

An anonymous group, which calls itself the May 2 Strike Committee, has called for a strike to protest rising education costs and student debt, along with the cut in funding the university has seen thanks to the state budget impasse.

The racist video was created in a similar style to a video supporting the strike that was posted on YouTube last week, but the May 2 Strike Committee denied any connection to the ATO AZO video in a statement on its website.

In a letter released to students on Sunday after administration caught sight of the issue, Brad Colwell, interim chancellor at SIU, addressed the video and requested the video by removed from YouTube immediately.

“The promotion of disruption and violence is not acceptable,” he stated. “It distracts all of us from our mission, and it makes members of our community feel unwelcome and unsafe.”

University administrators also met Monday morning to further address matters.

Rae Goldsmith, SIUC executive director for the university’s communications and marketing, said Monday afternoon that as of 2 p.m. the video was removed from YouTube.

“We approached them through multiple avenues because being a social media outlet, it’s difficult to get that to a person,” she said. “We had a lot of people call YouTube asking to get that taken down. So, we made the request as soon as we learned about it.

"It took a couple of days but we are pretty pleased that they responded.”

However, with more than 2,900 views, concerns had already formed.

Michelle Csorba, a junior studying art, education and ceramics at SIU, said she did see the video — and it made her afraid.  

"My boyfriend, he doesn't go here but, he is going to go to school with me on May 2 to watch out for me," she said.

Despite the fears, school leaders asked for students to remain calm as the investigation into the issues continue.

Kevin Bame, vice chancellor for Administration and Finance, also assured that local police officials have been monitoring the recent activities between the two groups.

"To say that they're necessarily connected will be difficult at this point," he said. "They are reviewing all available information, (and) there is a common theme through some of the incidents."

Additionally, university officials said plans are already in place for May 2 to keep students safe. 

The university’s next steps will be to introduce open forums, Colwell said, but they are still drafting more plans to eliminate the issues.  

"The videos, and the graffiti, and the different things, they’re just a symptom of something else that we need to be addressing on campus," he said. "We do have some issues that we need to deal with on campus, and that’s going to require some dialogue. There needs to be some action taken as well. We can't do one without the other.”

As for the investigation, Linda McCabe Smith, associate chancellor for institutional diversity at SIU, said that although precautions for privacy will be taken, penalties for those involved could range from a letter of apology to being asked to leave the university.

"We hold them to the student code," she said. 

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Nefeteria Brewster is a reporter covering Marion and Williamson County.

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