by Addison Smith
A student at Virginia Tech University was told by a teaching assistant that “White people cannot experience racism” when asked why she received a low grade on her final paper.
Students in the Nations and Nationalities class at Virginia Tech were asked to complete a paper describing a hate group from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list, and analyze how that group justifies its worldview, according to Alyssa Jones, a student in the class.
Jones is also the president of the Virginia Tech University Turning Point USA chapter and a campus ambassador for The Leadership Institute, the parent organization of Campus Reform.
Jones told Campus Reform that she decided to pick “the New Black Panther Party with the focus of the essay being on separatism.” According to the SPLC, the NBPP has “encouraged violence against Whites, Jews and law enforcement officers.”
When Jones received back her paper, she was surprised by the grade she received and emailed Sabrina Harris, the graduate teaching assistant for the class, to ask why she was given this grade.
Harris responded by telling Jones that there were problems with her view of racism when it comes to White people.
“To begin, we discuss in lecture [sic] that racism is a systemic issue rooted power structures [sic] which have historically oppressed non-white peoples, as a result, white people cannot experience [sic] racism. While the NBPP discriminates and has prejudice against white people and Jewish people, it does not engage with racism as a system of oppression and subjugation, so conceptual clarity is key!” Harris wrote in an email to Jones, a copy of which Campus Reform obtained.
“To begin, we discuss in lecture that racism is a systemic issue rooted power structures which have historically oppressed non-white peoples, as a result, white people cannot experience racism,” Harris wrote in the email to Jones.
Jones promptly reached out to her professor, Edward Weisband, concerned that “Ms. Harris says that blacks cannot be racist against whites, and therefore lowered my grade due to the viewpoint discrepancy.”
The professor sided with Jones, responding that he agreed with her view of racism:
“I agree with you, as I understand your position, persons identified as ‘white’ certainly can be subjected to racism,” the professor told Jones, agreeing to reevaluate her grade.
Joey Ricco, a student at Virginia Tech, told Campus Reform that he no longer feels comfortable including “conservative sentiments” in his assignments, for fear of also receiving poor grades.
“My entire academic career I have been labeled nazi and racist for expressing conservative beliefs. I have learned to no longer include conservative sentiment in school assignments as my grades have suffered in the past due to myself showing support for the second amendment in a research paper,” Ricco said.
A spokesperson for the university declined to comment, citing that, due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, “the university cannot comment on topics related to specific instances or events related to an individual student’s record.”
Sabrina Harris did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.
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Addison Smith is a Campus Reform video reporter and a senior, studying Business Marketing at Liberty University. Addison was previously a Campus Reform Senior Correspondent.