We understand the concern surrounding a video posted this week that includes comments made by two former University of West Georgia debate students. While these students participated in a nationally sanctioned debate event in 2012 representing UWG, their comments, or the comments made in any debate, do not reflect the University’s views or values.

We take diversity and inclusion very seriously. We work hard every day to ensure our students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds feel welcome and valued. Our top priority remains fostering the safest learning environment we can in which students can learn, grow and achieve.

As part of that commitment, UWG will not tolerate or allow comments or behavior that incite prejudice or violence against any individual or group. Any student who engages in such behavior will be investigated under the university’s student code of conduct, resulting in appropriate sanctions.

Comments made during debate training or debate events or theater rehearsals are rare exceptions to this policy. College debate programs operate in a manner similar to laboratories, where events like those depicted in the video are closely controlled and monitored. One team presents a position and the other responds, often using extreme arguments to show that a particular point is illogical.

In the case of the 2012 video, the debate centered on energy policy. The first team argued that white people embracing the location of wind turbines in their neighborhoods would be a way to address criticism that racism is inherent in the movement of white populations from urban areas. The former UWG students countered that argument by claiming that the extreme would not be for white people to locate themselves near wind turbines, but rather for white people to sacrifice themselves to remove racism altogether.  The purpose of the statement was to show the absurdity of their opponents’ position.

Unfortunately, the purposefully-edited video posted this week does not capture the complete discussion. It includes less than a minute and a half of a debate that lasted more than an hour and a half. It does not show that the first team injected the element of racism. Ultimately, it focuses solely on the extreme points used by one of the UWG students to counter an argument in a sanctioned debate.  When taken out of the context of a competition in which one team commonly uses extreme rhetoric to argue against an opponent’s extreme rhetoric, the scenes from the video are shocking. The fact that the debate was not halted and authorities were not notified shows the controlled environment in which the comments were made.

Again, the students’ comments included in the video do not reflect the values of our university. They do not represent beliefs or doctrines we teach to students.

Posted on Thursday, March 17, 2016