Social media posts by University of Mississippi students on the Nov. 6 presidential election were some of the main investigative points for the Incident Review Committee’s report. The IRC stated in their official report that “social media, primarily Twitter, fueled speculation about what was happening on campus.”
Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Leslie Banahan was one of the two IRC co-chairs who have been allowed to speak on the committee’s process for the investigation. She said the committee kept the students’ freedom of speech in mind.
In the IRC report, 23 tweets were quoted. The IRC, with the help of University Communications, traced these tweets back to their original handle. The committee contacted these students asking for testimonials on what had actually happened that night.
Banahan said the committee found tweets in which students reported multiple events, and the committee disproved each of them. A police car was erroneously reported to have been flipped and set on fire, and building damage was falsely reported as well. Students were also tweeting the use of tear gas and tasers by UPD, neither of which the department possesses.
Banahan said she refuses to associate the word “riot” with the events that took place Nov. 6.
“Hurtful, horrible things were said, and students were afraid,” Banahan said. “There are students who will never feel the same about this place again.”
Banahan said the report was for the benefit of the Ole Miss community because there were so many things out there that turned out to be false.
Associate Professor of Leadership and Counselor Education Kerry Melear was the other co-chair of the IRC. He said he believed the report helped to clear the confusion caused that night.
“The benefit of this report is that it helps clarify the rumors, conjecture and speculations concerning the events of election night by painting as accurate a portrait of that evening as possible through the evidence we reviewed,” said Melear.
Ten Ole Miss students had posts that the committee considered “particularly egregious.” The IRC has recommended that these students participate in “some type of Intervention or Restorative Justice program.”
Banahan confirmed that the three students who were referred to the Office of Student Conduct had no connection to any election-night tweets nor any social media involvement.
“This unnecessarily long report only validates the event’s overdrawn coverage,” said Keifer.
“Punishment for some is necessary for their bad behavior but in regards to social media, that is not something the university should be focusing its time, money and energy on.”