BGSU groundskeeper Kevin Paridon posted a racist comment to a Facebook Live video Friday as the latest in a string of discriminatory posts from his account.
His comment, which included a racial slur, was posted below 13abc’s livestream of the protest for racial justice yesterday in Washington D.C. After a Facebook user commented under an unrelated BGSU post about Paridon’s use of a slur, the university replied with a statement.
“Bowling Green State University is aware of the screenshots of the racist and violent comments shared on this thread. The Office of Human Resources has been contacted and will look into this situation. We will not comment on additional personnel matters at this time, however, we clearly do not support this language, whether by an employee or anyone, and find it to be not just offensive, but not representative of the University’s values of diversity and belonging,” BGSU posted as a comment beneath an existing post about music at the Democratic and Republican national conventions.
When asked to comment about the racial posts by the groundskeeper, BGSU Spokesperson Alex Solis sent the above statement. Solis has not responded to follow-up questions sent late Friday.
BGSU has since deleted two social media posts from early August recognizing Paridon as an “essential employee.” President Rodney Rogers has since done an interview with BG24 Senior Reporter Ralen Cleveland.
Groundskeeper Team Leader Christopher Snyder and Paridon have not responded to BG Falcon Media’s attempts to reach them for comment via phone call, email and Facebook message.
Morgan, an African American sophomore at BGSU who asked that her last name not be included, shared her thoughts about the university’s response to Paridon’s comment.
“I feel it could have been better,” she said.
She said the communities impacted by this kind of language should be included in conversations about responding rather than a closed group of university officials just making the decisions.
“I feel that we need to get the Office of Multicultural Affairs involved because that is really the voice for the people of color on campus,” she said.
Kaden White, a Black freshman, said he feels the university’s statement is not sincere.
“It needs to be a real apology. If you are not seriously sorry about this as a university that has a large group of minorities, you should feel ashamed of yourself,” he said.
The comment Paridon made on the livestream Friday is not an isolated incident.
Paridon’s Facebook page features 34 racist posts in just 66 days, many of which he shared from other pages. These posts include promotion of the Confederate flag, discriminatory references to marginalized communities and calls for violence against Black Lives Matter protesters. He has also shared content that has been flagged as misinformation by Facebook on multiple occasions.
Morgan and White said they believe Paridon should be fired for his racist comment made Friday, as well as his previous offensive posts.
In December 2019, another university employee was the subject of scrutiny for social media posts that did not align with BGSU’s values. Adjunct computer science instructor, Travis Sheaffer, posted that Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota should be “tried for treason and hanged” before deleting the tweet and his Twitter account last November.
In response to that instance, the university released a similar statement while the Black Student Union called for students to report Sheaffer through the BGSU bias reporting system.
However, his comment is protected under the First Amendment and the University’s policy on free speech and expression. While we respect Mr. Sheaffer’s right to share his views, we will always speak out against individuals or groups that espouse intolerance or hate. (2 of 2)— BGSU (@bgsu) December 1, 2019
Student response to Sheaffer’s tweets included calls for action. Former Latino Student Union Vice President Alexis Ray wrote a column for BG Falcon Media about her concerns for the safety of students.
“Unfortunately, words alone will not establish a new standard; action must be taken to ensure the safety and security of the students who are impacted by the university’s complacency when faced with these aversive situations,” she wrote.
White expressed similar feelings about the university’s response.
“If they don’t handle this situation as they are supposed to, they are going to lose a lot of students. And that’s not something they are going to want because that means less money in their pockets,” White said.
“They need to do something about it, and they need to do something about it now."