News Local/State

U Of I Chancellor Subjected To Sexist, Racist Tweets After Campus Stays Open


The chancellor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was the target of sexist and racist online comments after her decision to keep the U of I campus open despite the cold. 

On Sunday evening, social media users unhappy with Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s decision created parody accounts on social media and posted complaints. The tone quickly turned nasty.

A criminal justice professor who tracks social media bullying calls the severity of those comments ‘concerning.’ Justin Patchin is the co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He said the physical separation of social media makes it easier for some to post remarks they would never say in public.

“Because I doubt any of the individuals making the comments on line would waltz into the president or chancellor’s office and say these things,” Patchin said. “It’s also a fact of ready accessible technology, and I might have issues and concerns, and think of something funny at this moment. If it weren’t for technology, I’d have no platform.”

Patchin said high schools often have a different standard, and students can be punished for any remarks that disrupt the learning environment.  He suggests the U of I trace some of the comments posted, and anyone using hate speech be investigated.  

The U of I said it has no plans to penalize any of the students involved.

Some students and alumni weighed in against the comments. U of I Spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the sexist and racist comments do not reflect the attitudes of most students, and that the chancellor had not seen the comments herself.

“So I think it probably was a good lesson for those people who made ugly postings to see that they didn’t get a laugh out of people, and they didn’t get people saying, ‘yes I agree with you’ but instead, they had people saying ‘you’re really inappropriate and you’re embarrassing me, because you’re really inappropriate and you’re embarrassing me, because you’re affiliated with a university that I hold dear," she said.

As for Monday morning’s weather conditions, Kaler said the U of I’s Campus Emergency Operations committee met Sunday night to go over many checkpoints. They include clear sidewalks and streets, clear rural roads for some faculty to drive in, and making sure Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit is operating.