A GroupMe chat group for prospective University of Michigan freshmen students became a hotbed of controversy on Jan. 20 after white individuals messaged a racist slur and bigoted comments at Black and minority group members.
According to screenshots tweeted by a Black prospective student Kennedy DuBose, a white individual named Alex Whitley commented “N—-RS ARE THE WORST YOU KNOW” on the #Victors2021 group chat. In an email interview with the Daily, DuBose said she could not speculate as to why Whitley, who claimed to be an admitted student, used the slur.
“Im (sic) not sure how the feud started … I just came back to the chat to ‘n—ers are the worst,’ ” she wrote. “And nobody addressed him. It was out of the blue.”
When other members, including Kennedy, started calling him out on his messages, Whitley and a few sympathizers began personally attacking DuBose. The chat’s administrators eventually removed DuBose and other Black individuals from the chat, including some who were not involved in the debate, she said.
However, University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen said there is no evidence that either of the individuals in the chat are affiliated with the University whatsoever. Whitley did not respond to an interview request by the Daily.
"There are no students — or recently admitted — in our records by the name Ashley Wellington or Alex Whitley," Broekhuizen said. "We have no evidence that these individuals have any affiliation with the University of Michigan."
Rackham student Vikrant Garg, a representative of Students4Justice, a coalition combatting racism on campus, said speculation on Whitley's motives was unnecessary because of the gravity of the situation.
“It doesn't matter the context, it was abhorrent,” Garg said. “Also, how are we showing that we value Black students and other marginalized students if we are allowing them to be subjected to this?”
DuBose explained on Twitter that, as she was trying to teach Whitley and others about white privilege, they harassed her on the basis of her financial award — DuBose secured a Fairfax Scholarship, or four years of paid tuition — to the University with an ACT score of 27.
Prospective student Kaushik Kothakonda implied DuBose was unqualified for her scholarship and she received an unfair advantage because of her race.
“Lmao how tf is Ken gonna be roasting everyone on ‘privilege’ when she’s the one who got a full ride to Ann arbor with a 27 act,” Kothakonda wrote in the chat. “Is she seriously gonna tell me she would have gotten the full ride if she was white or asian. Affirmative action is privilege get your head out of the clouds.”
Universities and colleges in Michigan, however, have been barred from using affirmative action for the last 10 years. The Supreme Court further upheld the 2006 state ban on affirmative action in a 2014 case, banning racial quotas or the consideration of applicants' race in admissions.
DuBose retorted on Twitter her credentials were on par with the scholarship requirements and amounted to more than her race.
“… they think the only reason I got my full ride there was because I'm black — not because I earned it,” DuBose wrote on Twitter. “I have 200+ hours of community service, I'm in 12+ extracirriculars (sic). Leadership position in each. And my essays were fire.”
In her Twitter post about the incident, DuBose specifically mentioned the inauguration of President Donald Trump, whose comments on groups including Blacks, Latinos and immigrants have stirred great controversy. Trump has previously called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and criminals, and has incorrectly characterized most Black people as living in impoverished inner city areas.
DuBose wrote on Twitter the chat members tried to silence her by invoking Trump’s victory in the elections, and also claimed they felt attacked for supporting the new president.
In the corresponding section of the chat, prospective students Matthew Lewis and Tyler Lubin argued Trump is not a racist and Lewis characterized DuBose and others as sore losers, according to screenshots posted by S4J on Facebook.
“Y’all can kick and scream all you want,” Lewis wrote. “We’re all living in Don’s America now.”
The incident sparked outrage among student groups on campus. Students4Justice began a social media awareness campaign on Sunday exposing Whitley and his sympathizers.
LSA sophomore Gabby McFarland, gender lead for S4J, wrote in an email interview with the Daily her group is currently spreading word about the incident and has contacted the Office of Admissions.
“We will soon be releasing our literature by tomorrow which will contain a thorough list of demands and further actions will be decided from there on,” McFarland wrote.
After all that has happened, however, DuBose continues to be optimistic about the possibility of a future at the University.
“I'm overwhelmingly grateful for this experience and I'm thankful for these groups that are helping me get justice,” she wrote. “I don't really have access to campus right now and I don't have much of a platform, but I really appreciate that they're helping me make sure that UMICH isn't represented poorly. They're amazing people that I've met so far and I'm excited to be with them every step of the way, not only in this situation but in all racial discrimination in my future years at Michigan.”
Whitley may not be the only student claiming to be admitted coming under fire, though. A Twitter user named Ashley Wellington, who included "University of Michigan '21" in her profile, posted tweets referring to former president Barack Obama as a n—-er and lynchings. Twitter users rallied against Wellington, tagging University Twitter accounts in an effort to revoke her admission. Wellington has since deleted her account, though Broekhuizen said the University's social media team is monitoring the situation, but could not confirm the Twitter account was run by an admitted student.
"We can't find these names in our system at all," she said. "At this point, there is no evidence for us to determine they might be affiliated with the University."
Correction: This article has been updated to specify that neither Wellington nor Whitley are admitted students.