Chancellor, Regents leader criticize KU student body president’s ‘death to America’ Twitter post

photo by: Journal-World File Photos

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod, left, and Cheryl Harrison-Lee, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, right, are pictured in file photos.

Story updated at 5:08 p.m. Thursday:

KU’s chancellor and the chair of the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday both issued statements criticizing a social media post by KU’s student body president that advocated for “death to America.”

But KU Student Body President Niya McAdoo expressed no regrets for her decision last week to retweet a social media message that said “happy friday everybody. death to america.”

“To me, America is not this sunshine and rainbows place that some people like to view it as,” McAdoo said in an interview with the Journal-World. “For Black and Brown people, this isn’t, you know, the greatest place in the world.”

photo by: Contributed

University of Kansas Student Body President Niya McAdoo

Since that posting on Sept. 3, the tweet has been a topic of discussion on some conservative radio networks and has led various groups, including the Kansas Federation of College Republicans, to call for McAdoo’s removal from office.

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod didn’t go that far on Thursday, but he said he was troubled by the posting.

“Recently our university’s student body president shared a social media post that many Jayhawks — myself included — found to be disappointing and concerning. I would like to share a few thoughts on this,” Girod said in a written statement. “First, the opinions in the student’s post are protected by the First Amendment. In addition, KU is committed to its role as a marketplace of ideas — including ideas that some individuals find offensive.

“At the same time, I understand and appreciate why many individuals have found the content of the student’s post offensive. I strongly disagree with the sentiment of her retweet, and I want to make clear that she does not speak for the university on this or any other matter.”

Cheryl Harrison-Lee — chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees the state university system — also stopped short of calling for McAdoo’s removal.

“U.S. citizens strive daily to make a more perfect union,” Harrison-Lee said in a written statement. “Often times we fall short. Nonetheless, we are proud to be Americans and despite its imperfections we are proud to call America home.

“The sentiments shared by KU’s Student Body President this past weekend on social media do not align with the Regents’ beliefs or the type of productive dialogue we hope to encourage on our university campuses,” she wrote. “The Board remains committed to protecting the rights of students to freely verbalize their convictions. Earlier this year, all nine Regents signed a Free Expression Statement, reaffirming this commitment and stated that we ‘cannot use our desire for civility and respect as a basis to silence expression.'”

McAdoo’s retweet came just days before the 20th anniversary of 9/11 — the terrorist attack where the “death to America” phrase was often invoked — and also just days after U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan. McAdoo said she wasn’t trying to make a statement about U.S. troops or 9/11, but rather that it was more representative of her sentiments about systemic racism and the ugly history of colonialism. In some of her tweets following the retweet, she said America was “built on Indigenous genocide and the backs of Black slaves.”

“Truly, I don’t really owe anyone an educational explanation to why America is racist,” McAdoo said. “It is written in books; it is written in articles. Black and Brown people have been talking about it for centuries at this point. So, I don’t owe anyone really any free labor explaining why I see this country the way that I do.”

McAdoo said she wasn’t necessarily trying to start a conversation when she retweeted the social media post, but rather “I see this tweet, this America I live in is not an America that supports me, so I retweeted it.”

But McAdoo said the conversations that have followed are important, and she said she respects the right of people to disagree with her opinion. She said she has received both positive and negative feedback from members of KU’s student government, which elects its own leaders and doesn’t answer directly to the chancellor or the Board of Regents.

McAdoo said there are students preparing a “resolution of disagreement” about her retweet and subsequent statements.

“I’ve told them I respect their decision to do that,” she said. “At the end of the day, I’ll be there to explain or further have that dialogue.”

McAdoo, though, said she has no intention of resigning. She said she expects to continue to work with the chancellor’s office on issues, and that she wants to continue to focus on improving the representation of people who she said historically have been unheard or underrepresented at KU.

“This year we are really focusing on giving a voice back to students who have historically been ignored, like Black and Brown students, queer and trans folks on our campus, international students … Bringing those concerns to the chancellor and the provost is something that is really important to us,” she said.


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