Austin American-Statesman: April 20, 2017
Students at Texas State University are petitioning for the removal of a student government senator for allegedly making racist and homophobic comments on social media.
The University Star reports that the petition is in connection to a university investigation into an image that had a Texas State student’s face edited onto a photo of a lynching.
The image was tweeted from an anonymous account in January. The tweet tagged the affected student and contained a racial slur. The tweet has since been deleted but the account remains.
On Wednesday Texas State was notified of the incident via a tweet criticizing student senator Corbin Cornwell and connecting him to the lynching image. The tweet also contained screenshots of what appears to be messages with vulgar and homophobic language sent from Cornwell to the affected student.
The university responded and said they would investigate the messages and the image. Cornwell denied creating the image, according to the University Star.
In February, a fake Facebook account was made under the affected student’s name and Cornwell was one of three people listed as friends.
On Thursday, a petition to remove Cornwell from his student government position was made. Some students gathered signatures on campus and online, with more than 700 supporters in the petition’s first day.
Texas State student Nicholas Prejan, 22, was the one who tweeted the screenshots to the university and started the petition Thursday morning. Prejan is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. at Texas State and several of his fraternity brothers have taken part in getting signatures for the petition.
“We take it personally when someone in our community is marginalized or attacked,” Prejan said. The affected student “is a guy that everyone knows for being a caring person. When we saw a Texas State student being attacked we stepped up to shed light on the situation.”
Prejan said a conflict between Cornwell and the affected student began in January when the latter criticized the fraternities who were involved in the November death of 20-year-old Jordin Taylor, saying the fraternities should have been punished more harshly. Prejan said Cornwell is a member of one of the four fraternities who were suspended in January following Taylor’s death.
Prejan later tweeted screenshots of what appear to be an online exchange with Cornwell in which the latter apologized for sending the affected student the messages containing homophobic and vulgar language, but also threatened to sue Prejan for connecting him with the lynching image and said he did not author it.
Thursday afternoon Texas State President Denise M. Trauth sent an email to the Texas State community saying an investigation had begun and if the student responsible for creating the image is found, he or she will face disciplinary action.
“While the university is committed to the principles of free speech, it is also dedicated to fostering civil discourse and Texas State does not tolerate communications that are threatening, harassing or racially motivated,” Trauth wrote.
Neither the affected student nor Cornwell could be reached for comment Thursday.