Racist remarks surprised students at UK’s Constitution Day

Racist remarks surprised students at UK's Constitution Day

Margo Morton

Thirty-five Manual students were surprised by a racist speaker during a field trip to the University of Kentucky’s Constitution Day celebration on Wednesday.

The event, which aimed to demonstrate the importance of the US Constitution and teach basic photography and writing skills to high school journalists, took an unexpected turn when a presenter, write-in US Senate candidate Robert Ransdell, made anti-Semitic, racist remarks.

Ms. Liz Palmer (Journalism) asked the organizer, Buck Ryan, to end Ransdell’s speech. When he did not, an employee of the student center did. Mr. James Miller (Journalism) gave an impromptu rebuttal and apologized to the high school students for being exposed to racist remarks at an official UK function without any context or explanation.

Ryan, an associate professor of journalism at UK, said that their intention was for Ransdell to discuss his candidacy and give the students an opportunity to write a story.

“The problem was that the students couldn’t do anything about it. We had to sit there and take what he was saying,” Mia Thompson (11, J&C) said. “I am so grateful that Mr. Miller stood up and said something because he gave a voice to the voiceless.”

The university has since released a statement on Ransdell’s appearance on the campus. On Thursday, Sept. 18, the UK president released a formal apology about the incident, saying “Everyone is free to believe what they believe; and say what they want to say. But the language of hate aimed at the diminishment of anyone has no place in our community and is contrary to the values of our University.”

 

The University's apology to the journalism student and teachers at the event.
The University’s apology to the journalism student and teachers at the event.

 

Prior to Ransdell’s speech, UK presented Mr. Miller and Ms. Palmer with the Enoch Grehan Prize for their work in the J&C magnet. They were nominated by former J&C student Isabel Rosales.

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 7.02.06 PM
Mr. Miller and Ms. Palmer received the Enoch Grehan Prize for their work in the J&C magnet. Photo by Josh Svoboda

 

 

Video taken by Manual AM Executive Producer Jennifer Mansfield

 

Click here to see Ransdell’s speech.