University of Houston student Rohini Sethi has been punished and suspended from her position as executive vice president of the student government for saying “all lives matter” in a Facebook post on her personal account.
Following the shooting deaths of five police officers in Dallas, Sethi wrote, “Forget #BlackLivesMatter; more like #AllLivesMatter.” Her innocuous post sparked a firestorm among students, with calls to #RemoveRohini from her student government position trending.
The government voted 13-2 on July 29 to give President Shane Smith the power to sanction Sethi. The two students had campaigned together, with Sethi as Smith’s running mate, on the slogan “Initiative, Integrity, Inclusion.” Now, Smith has imposed harsh punishments on his vice president.
The Daily Caller outlined the recently-announced sanctions:
- A 50-day suspension from SGA starting August 1. This suspension will be unpaid (she currently receives a stipend of about $700 a month).
- A requirement to attend a three-day diversity workshop in mid-August.
- A requirement to attend three “UH cultural events” each month from September through March, excluding December.
- An order to write a “letter of reflection” about how her harmful actions have impacted SGA and the UH student body
- An order to put on a public presentation Sept. 28 detailing “the knowledge she has gained about cultural issues facing our society.”
Sethi apologized profusely for her use of the popular hashtag on her private Facebook page, saying she “didn’t have a clear understanding of what the Black Lives Matter movement is” and is “sorry for the words she used.”
The school’s student-run publication The Cougar reported that despite Sethi’s apology, some offended students did not believe she was really repentant.
“I’ve been studying your body language,” junior Zoe Azebe-Osime said at a recent meeting in which students called for Sethi’s removal. “You say that you’re sorry, but I don’t really feel like you’re sorry. To say you’re not educated about Black Lives Matter is baffling to me. People who are black don’t have the luxury to not be educated about Black Lives Matter.”
Sethi is of Indian heritage, according to Campus Reform.
Smith, in a statement explaining his sanctions, said he hopes Sethi will become “a better person” as a result of the forced diversity training. He also defended his infringement on Sethi’s right to free speech:
“The First Amendment prevents a person from being jailed by the government for what they say. But the First Amendment does not prevent people from receiving other consequences for what they say, including workplace discipline.”
Sethi wrote on her Facebook page following the announcement of the sanctions:
“I disagree with the sanctions taken against me by my [student government] because I believe I have done a great deal to better understand the controversy I caused. I have also apologized for my words because no student should feel as though I do not have their best interests at heart. Even so, I will abide by the sanctions for as long as they are in place.”
All this, and the school year hasn’t even started yet. Buckle up.