UPDATE on Sept. 13, 2017: Student who targeted classmate for deportation no longer enrolled at Transylvania
A student at Transylvania University says the school refused to help her after she was targeted on Facebook by a fellow student because of her status under an Obama-era policy that allows the children of undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States for school and work.
In a tearful six-minute video posted to YouTube on Sunday, Transy senior Paola Garcia said fellow student Taylor Ragg posted a picture of her Facebook profile, saying, “Everyone go report this illegal at my school bragging about breaking the law.” The profile shows Garcia under a picture of President Donald Trump, which says “Not My President.”
Last week, Trump, who was elected on an anti-immigration platform, announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would end in six months if Congress doesn’t pass it into law.
“Racists are emboldened today, and he’s inciting them to harass me and report me,” Garcia said in the video as she reads some of the profanity-laced comments that people posted on her Facebook page.
“Hope you enjoyed your visit. Back to them dirt floors of your homeland, stinky ass,” she said one commenter posted. Another posted a video of someone filling out a tip form for immigration authorities.
Garcia, who said Ragg made the post in late August, sought help from Transy officials last Friday, but she said, “According to them, his activities don’t violate the school’s non-discrimination policy.”
“It’s obvious that he did,” she says in the video. “It just doesn’t make sense to me how that was their conclusion.”
In a phone interview, Garcia said President Seamus Carey told her that Ragg merely made a recommendation to his readers about how to respond to her profile, which does not violate Transy rules. Carey asked to meet with both students, which Garcia did, but Ragg declined.
When contacted through Facebook for a comment, Ragg responded: “Lexington Herald Leader is Fake News.”
He did apparently speak with a website called The Narrative Times, which published excerpts of emails to him from Carey’s office, requesting a conversation with him about the impact of social media. The Narrative Times wrote a story sympathetic to Ragg with the headline: “ILLEGAL ALIEN Boast’s About Being Here ILLEGAL and Suddenly Get’s A REALITY CHECK!”
When asked for comment, Transy spokeswoman Michele Sparks said school officials could not comment on any specific student.
“Transylvania University does not condone or tolerate hatred, bigotry, bullying or harassment in any form and will address any such behavior in a manner consistent with our policies, procedures, and values as a university,” Sparks said. “We value every member of this community on the basis of their humanity, not on the basis of their ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or legal status.”
On Monday, Carey sent a campus-wide email about the matter, saying the liberal arts school near downtown Lexington supports DACA and abhors bigotry and intolerance.
“It is essential to remember, however, that the way we pursue justice is as important as the outcome we seek,” Carey said. “If justice is to be lasting, the means by which it is achieved is as important as the achievement itself. As a country and as an institution, we are governed by laws. These laws protect the freedom to express one’s viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are different from our own. Thus, there are times when our laws seem like an obstacle rather than a support. If we want justice to endure, however, we cannot succumb to frustrations that would have us break the law or violate policies.”
In her video, Garcia asks the public to contact Transy officials and ask for Ragg’s expulsion.
“He’s still here,” she said of Ragg, “and I have to see his face every day. It’s such a small campus.”
Alumna Holly Brown told the Herald-Leader she will not donate money to Transy until they properly enforce their non-discrimination policy, and will encourage others to follow her lead.
“I am infuriated to see my alma mater failing to protect its students and blatantly disregarding their non-discrimination policy,” she said. “Their policy, which is posted online, mentions national origin as a protected class. I can’t understand why the university would fail to act in this instance of a student harassing a peer due to her national origin.”
Garcia said that since she posted the video, she has had overwhelming support. “So many people have offered me their homes as a safe place, and people have offered to walk me places,” she said. “I feel relatively safe right now.”
Garcia, who was brought to this country when she was 2, grew up in St. Albans, W.Va. She has never met Ragg, although they would be participating in the same graduation ceremony next spring.
“I would really love to not walk the same stage with him,” she said.
According to his Facebook page, Ragg is from Harlan and is a former legislative intern for the U.S. Senate. He also was a campus coordinator for Students for Rand, a group that supports U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green.