Student expelled after photo deemed ‘discriminatory harassment’

A Marquette University student was expelled after coming forward to explain the innocent context of a photo that had sparked charges of racism after it circulated on social media.

Alex Ruiz was found guilty of “discriminatory harassment” for using a service called “AirDrop” to send a photo that was interpreted as a racial threat, but only after he voluntarily identified himself to campus police in hopes of staving off the burgeoning campus-wide controversy.

The photo in question, which was released to media, depicts Ruiz and three of his friends (none of whom are Marquette students) pointing an airsoft gun at a black doll alongside the caption, “Chuuch,” which Urban Dictionary defines as slang for “Amen.” 

[RELATED: Marquette forum says ‘white community’ ‘perpetuates racism’] 

Ruiz told Campus Reform that the photo was taken in a different state years before he ever enrolled at Marquette, adding that the doll was not intended to have racial connotations, and was simply something that one of the boys was known to carry around with him regularly.

The boys referred to the doll as “Bill,” and Ruiz’s father described it to Campus Reform as being similar to “a troll which people carry around.” 

One night, according to a campus police “Incident Report” obtained by Campus Reform, Alex and friends were playing a “game” in which they would randomly scroll through their phones while the “Apple Airdrop” function was on, which allows photos to be sent to all nearby devices without specifying a recipient, resulting in the photo being unintentionally shared with a classmate.

According to the university, “sending [photos] to another person is harassment.” Ruiz and his father both told Campus Reform that they are deeply “apologetic” about what occurred, but feel that the university was not fair in its handling of the matter.

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Ruiz’s father asserted that he had made “multiple attempts” to contact university officials, even calling President Michael Lovell, but said Lovell ignored “multiple requests” to speak to the family even after they flew from Colorado to Marquette to meet with school administrators.

Ruiz’s family originally immigrated to the United States three years ago from Mexico, and continues to struggle with English fluency. The father claims that the university summarily “dismissed” his outreach, and was looking to “out a student” to calm the outrage on campus. 

Becoming emotional about the situation, Ruiz’s father noted that even though his son “came out and apologized immediately,” it still cost him his place at Marquette, which he had been attending on an 80 percent scholarship.

“I know that I made a mistake. All I am asking for is a chance to make it right,” Ruiz told Campus Reform, adding that “I had no idea who was receiving the images and I was not aware of the harm that they could potentially cause.” 

Indeed, following Ruiz’s expulsion, Marquette held a forum to teach “white students” how they “perpetuate racism” at MU, which was reported on by Campus Reform

Even President Lovell got involved in the reaction to Ruiz’s photo, tweeting a picture of himself holding a sign that read, “I stand against racism because ‘privilege’ means using your position to speak up and bring about change.” Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Xavier Cole, meanwhile, declared that “our job at to help provide safe spaces.”

[RELATED: Marquette forum calls university seal a ‘microaggression’]

Ruiz and his family filed a formal appeal asking the university to reopen the case, but an “Appeals Panel” rendered a unanimous decision to uphold the original punishment, even after Ruiz wrote a five-page apology letter. 

“I have a desire to be part of the solution, to make amends for what went wrong, and to move forward,” Ruiz told Campus Reform. “Removing me removes an opportunity to help a community to heal, to repair damage, and to create improvements to the campus experience.”

Dr. John McAdams, a Marquette professor who was only recently reinstated following his own protracted battle with the university, called out school administrators in a recent blog post for “compulsively pandering to the forces of political correctness” in response to Ruiz’s photo.

“A lot of black students were up in arms about the gag photo, so the fellow in the photo had to be expelled,” McAdams summarized. “This is racialized ‘justice.’ This is where Marquette is.” 

Neither the Marquette Police Department nor university spokespersons responded to Campus Reform’s requests for comment. This article will be updated if and when a response is received from either.

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