George Floyd protests

Temple reviewing students’ offensive social media posts, will not comment on discipline

“I hate to think that I did that,” said one incoming freshman, apologizing for old Snapchats.

Temple University's main campus in North Philadelphia

Temple University's main campus in North Philadelphia

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital
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Temple University won’t release details on any discipline the school may take after a prospective student and a current student were called out for insensitive, racist and homophobic social media posts, a spokesperson told Billy Penn.

In confirming the posts were under review, Temple spokesperson Raymond Betzner would not say whether administration had reached out to the students in question.

They include Klein College’s Jimmy Freas, a media studies and production senior, and incoming first-year student Gabe Escobar, son of Inquirer editor Gabriel Escobar.

Freas came under fire first. After his Snapchat posts demeaning George Floyd and the current protests made their way to Twitter, he was removed from his roles at the on-campus WHIP radio station and its televised Owl Sports Update, according to posts from both programs.

Escobar, a TikTok influencer with nearly 2 million followers, used the N-word and homophobic slurs on Snapchat three years ago. After the old post resurfaced on Twitter last week, Escobar posted a 13-minute apology on Instagram during which he said his life has been threatened.

In cases like this, the Temple does “review the student’s behavior as it relates to our student code,” Betzner said, and “contact[s] the student to discuss the issue.”

Students are not disciplined for speech except under specific circumstances, the college clarified in a tweet Friday afternoon that cited respect for First Amendment rights.

The university’s official student code of conduct makes no direct mention of personal social media use, but does say students “should be as free as possible from imposed limitations that have no direct relevance to their education.”

A petition calling on Temple to change its student code of conduct to require expulsion for hate speech was created Friday and had earned more than 3,500 signatures by Sunday afternoon.

Inquirer editor Escobar defended his son, telling reporters at the paper that the 18-year-old has “committed himself to spreading a positive message,” and that he and Gabe’s mother “admire how he has expressed remorse and taken responsibility.”

Publisher Lisa Hughes said the issue was a private family matter, and though the posts were “offensive and are contrary to our core values and beliefs,” the Inquirer would not intervene.

 

Instances of colleges taking action when students make offensive posts are proliferating against the backdrop of nationwide protests over police brutality, but it has happened in the past.

Harvard University in 2017 rescinded the admission of nearly a dozen prospective students after they were caught sharing racist, xenophbic and sexually explicit memes on Facebook. The prestigious private school did the same in 2019, when it rescinded admission of a Parkland high school shooting survivor who shared racist text and Google doc messages.

Right now, Temple isn’t the only Pa. university dealing with this kind of fallout. Penn State is also facing calls for action.

One Penn State student was alleged to have yelled a racial slur at a group of demonstrators this week in Aston, Pa. That student, Sean Setnick, maintains he was not the one heard  in the video yelling slurs.

A petition calling on Penn State to discipline student Ryann Milligan, who was seen with the fake swastika tattoo on her shoulder, has garnered nearly 100k signatures as of Friday evening online since the photo surfaced on June 1.

The school tweeted its response, saying, in part, “A public university does not have the power to expel students over speech.”

However, at the public University of South Carolina, officials confirmed one student who made racist social media posts last weekend was “no longer enrolled” after a school investigation. Federal law prohibits the university from revealing whether the student was expelled, USC spokesperson Jeff Stensland told Billy Penn.

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