University denounces Chaze Vinci’s ’23 racist social media posts

Aug. 30, 2021, 9:13 a.m.

This article contains descriptions of violent and racist imagery against Black people that may be troubling to some readers.

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne denounced “an ugly and disturbing series of social media posts” from a Stanford student Chaze Vinci ’23 in an email to the community on Sunday. 

Vinci posted a series of photos on his Instagram story and Twitter that contained violent imagery directed toward a Black student and a faculty member, as well as racist rhetoric toward Black people. 

One post included a picture of a racist cartoon and an image of a gorilla alongside photos of two Black students with text reading “spot the difference” and a biblical passage reading “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. May Canaan be the slave of Shem and Japheth!” 

In another story post, Vinci photoshopped an image to show a Black student being beheaded. The Daily is withholding the name of the student targeted in Vinci’s posts to prevent further online harassment. Vinci later posted a screenshot of the University’s racial and ethnic demographic breakdown and circled the Black population, writing “it’s time the majority started running things.” On Twitter, he posted an image of comparative literature professor David Palumbo-Liu’s face covered in red ink next to an image of a guillotine. 

“Threats to members of the Stanford community, whether those threats are direct or implied, are unacceptable,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote in the email. “Identity-based attacks, of all kinds, are antithetical to our values.”

Tessier-Lavigne also assured students that the University is “actively working on several fronts to address what has occurred, and to take actions to ensure the safety of our community.”

What those actions will look like is still to be seen — especially whether they will rise to the level of expulsion, as several students have called for.

In the wake of Vinci’s posts, a wave of students crafted social media posts calling for his expulsion, citing the clause in the Fundamental Standard, signed by all students, that reads: Students “are expected to show both within and without the University such respect for order, morality, personal honor and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens.” Failure to comply with the Fundamental Standard is grounds for removal from the University. A group of Black students also created a petition calling on the University to hold Vinci accountable for his posts. The petition has received over 1,500 digital signatures. 

“Expelling Chaze is an opportunity for Stanford to take action against anti-Black racism beyond focus groups and academic diversity initiatives by concretely making Stanford a safer space for Black students,” wrote Jianna So ’22 M.S. ’22.

Linda Denson ’23, co-president of the Stanford Black Gender-Marginalized Collective, expressed their feeling of discomfort with returning to campus alongside Vinci.

“Especially considering the violent threats or the depiction of violence towards Black women and us all returning to campus this fall, there’s no way that the University can expect Black students, especially Black women, to feel comfortable and safe on campus this fall if they’re going to allow Chaze Vinci to return,” they said.

The executive branch of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) also denounced the “horrifically racist graphics” contained in Vinci’s posts in a Sunday email. “Sadly, this incident is not unique, the fundamental standard should be re-written in a manner that more effectively protects marginalized communities,” they wrote.

So wrote that she is frustrated that Tessier-Lavigne “did not condemn the posts as ‘racist’, just ‘violent’, even though they contained anti-Black messaging directed at Black students.” She added that “Black students need detailed and trustworthy assurances that their safety will be protected on campus. That email failed to do so.” 

Destiny Kelly ’24 also criticized the administration’s failure to include clear action steps to address Vinci’s tweets in Tessier-Lavigne’s email. While Tessier-Lavigne assured students that the University is working to address the situation, he did not specify the administration’s course of action. The University “listened, but they did not hear,” Kelly said. “They always say, we’re here for you, and steps will be taken, never anything past that.”

The University declined to comment on specific actions they were considering taking in response to the social media posts. “While we do not discuss details of individual student matters, we want students to know that we are here to support them if they are experiencing distress,” wrote University spokesperson E.J. Miranda. 

Vinci took to Facebook Live on Sunday to say that he would not be expelled because “there’s no way you can do it legally. But also because I come in the name of the Lord.” During his livestream, he also launched a campaign for student body president. Vinci did not immediately respond to The Daily’s request for comment.

While Denson said she is not optimistic that action from the University to Vinci will lead to “structural change,” they said they hope the University will respond in a way that will set a precedent for “the type of speech that is allowed and accepted by the Stanford community.” Denson added that they think “there has to be a much clearer, swifter and accessible way for students to report incidents like these.” 

Previous posts from Vinci were reported to the Office of Community Standards by students. While administrators concurred that the speech was “racist and horrific,” they wrote in an earlier August email that they were unable to respond as it was “protected speech.”

Dana Chiueh ’23 said that, while she was proud of community mobilization, she was “sad and frustrated that so much re-traumatizing and harm had to take place to members of our community.” Kelly added that she wished the University had acted before today’s posts were made.

Some students also pointed to Vinci’s criminal record as a sign that he poses a threat to community members and should face expulsion. According to the Franklin Favorite, a local newspaper in Kentucky, Vinci was arrested in August 2020 for allegedly breaking and entering, as well as pouring lighter fluid on someone.

Vinci’s posts were a reflection of both Vinci and of the Stanford community, according to Faith Ajanaku ’25. The failure of students and administration to hold individuals and community organizations accountable for racist rhetoric and actions left the burden on the Black community to create petitions and organize “just to hold someone accountable for their racist actions,” Ajanaku said.

Miranda directed students towards Well-Being Resources available through Vaden Health Services if they are in need of support. “It is important for all of our students to know that we are here to help if they need it,” he wrote.

Along with Vinci, Denson was awarded a scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. With other Cooke scholars from schools across the country, Denson reached out to the Foundation to call on them to condemn Vinci’s behavior and revoke his scholarship. “If he can be a Jack Kent Cooke college scholar, then I do not want to be,” Denson said. 

After the Foundation became aware of his social media posts on Monday, Vinci was removed from the scholarship program on Aug. 30.

“This morning the Foundation learned of an extremely disturbing spate of violent, racist, sexist and homophobic posts by a Cooke Scholar,” Seppy Basili, Executive Director of the Foundation, wrote in a Monday email to other scholars. 

“Such abhorrent intolerance is completely inconsistent with the Foundation’s values and wholly unacceptable,” Basili wrote.

This article has been updated to reflect that Vinci was removed from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship program on Aug. 30.

This article has been corrected to reflect that previous reports about Vinci to the Office of Community Standards were made in 2021. A previous version of the article misstated that the reports were made in 2020. The Daily regrets this error.

Kaushikee Nayudu '24 is The Daily's Editor in Chief. Contact her at knayudu ‘at’

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