At Florida International University, the fallout over a leaked group chat from the school's College Republicans is still spreading. After New Times first reported Friday about the chats — which show the young GOP students joking about deporting classmates and making light of the attack by a white supremacist in Charlottesville — the school announced it was investigating the group.
Now hundreds of students have signed a petition urging FIU President Mark Rosenberg to "take immediate action" against the College Republicans, and the club's vice president has resigned over the "disgusting hate." In fact, the former vice president says he had earlier reported the offensive comments to school authorities, who did nothing to curb the problem.
"I was elected VP and hoped I was able to cause real change and stop the radicalism that is happening," writes Mauricio Pons, who says he's the grandson of Cuban immigrants and was particularly disturbed by the College Republicans' xenophobic tenor. "I'm sad to say that for nine months my efforts were futile and I left the group chat because of its toxicity and hate speech."
The chats, which New Times received from an anonymous tipster in the group, show FIU's College Republicans sharing memes calling the protesters injured and killed in Charlottesville by Nazis "snowflakes." The group also discussed calling ICE on classmates who protested in favor of protecting young undocumented immigrants last week.
More than 700 students have now signed a petition on Change.org demanding that Rosenberg discipline the group. The petition notes that school leaders began investigating a fraternity on campus only after New Times and other outlets reported on leaked chats from the frat showing members joking about rape and hazing.
"Since the College Republicans are not willing to discipline their own, we are calling on FIU to take immediate action so that our minority student population feels safe going to school," the petition notes. "Threats of intimidation should not be taken lightly by our administration."
The petition was started by FIU graduate student Allison Sardinas, an assistant for the Center for Women's and Gender studies. Sardinas says she's an advocate for immigrant communities and was one of the organizers of the walkout at FIU last week demanding Congress pass immigration protections for students.
"I believe the students violated the student code of conduct, particularly by threatening to deport specific students," Sardinas says. "I think they should be put on at least probation before they're allowed to be up and running again."
She's not alone. Students at FIU have been alarmed by the rhetoric in the chat.
"It's hard to believe the fact that people are still dehumanizing other groups, especially at such a diverse university," says Jamel Holt, a freshman at FIU. "I don't think the statement about purchasing weapons should be taken lightly at all." He also believes the school should consider an "in-depth" investigation rather than just blowing it off.
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Adds freshman Ruth Artze: "It's really unfortunate to see people have those hateful thoughts, especially when we're a 'Worlds Ahead' school full of international students. It makes FIU a little more unsafe to students who already feel unsafe in this country under this administration."
In a Facebook post announcing his resignation from the club, Pons says he had fought within the group to stop the hate speech and had also reported the disturbing notes to school authorities — but that neither approach had worked.
Pons says he ran for office on a pledge to end the racist speech, and when it continued, he reported the offenses to FIU's Council on Student Organizations. But apparently, nothing came of it.
"I have been trying everything I could to stop these hateful comments," Pons writes. "I've addressed the board on the issue and during general meetings, and I have confronted individuals who promoted such disgusting hate. Last year, I campaigned to have tolerant and caring people elected to the board."