This is a developing story. Updates will be made as further information is acquired.
A TikTok video recording a Black man on campus, without his knowledge, which appears to compare him to a gorilla, has gone viral. The video, recorded by University of Miami students on the Coral Gables campus from the account “CanesCritters,” spread quickly through group chats Wednesday night. The video has since been deleted along with the account.
After receiving the video, The Miami Hurricane reached out to administrators, faculty and members of the student body for their response.
The students behind the TikTok account claimed to be creating content for an assignment in their Digital Marketing class, instructed by Professor Amy Agramonte. The assignment was aimed at creating a social media campaign for an event or client.
After being temporarily taken down, the account resurfaced Thursday with an apology from the students. The apology, in the form of a TikTok, claimed the clip of the students’ dialogue and the clip of the Black man were “unaffiliated” and followed the format of previous videos. The students went on to apologize to those who were offended by the content.
“At this point, we would like to sincerely apologize for this video and reemphasize that any racial implications made, though completely unintentional, are NOT a reflection of our account, our posts, or our personal beliefs,” the statement reads. “We deeply apologize to everyone who was impacted by this video.”
The student who was stopped and interviewed by the content creators in the first clip of the video was identified as Jacob Rona. Rona provided The Miami Hurricane with the statement below.
“I am completely appalled. I unequivocally condemn this video and am deeply offended that my image was used in this manner. I understand that the video has already been taken down, but I hope that there are additional consequences,” Rona said. “Racism and bigotry have no place on our campus and we need to do more to educate our student body about how to stand up to racism and hate.”
When asked for comment, UM provided The Miami Hurricane with the following statement.
“Racism and hate have no place at the University of Miami. We are deeply committed to sustaining a culture of belonging where every individual is valued and supported,” the statement said. “While we appreciate that those involved have accepted responsibility and apologized, we are reviewing the circumstances around the creation and posting of the video to determine whether there were any violations of the Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.”
Tatiana Alvarado, Student Government Treasurer and David Raez, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate, have provided statements on behalf of Student Government.
“University administration is working on investigating this incident now. I trust that the appropriate administrators will thoroughly come to a conclusion,” Alvarado said.
Working with the relevant administrative offices, members of Student Government began investigating the situation as soon as the video was brought to their attention.
“That kind of behavior is completely unacceptable. It helps me be at ease knowing that the University administration is currently investigating the issue,” Raez said.
Despite the prompt actions of UM administrators, the student body has expressed disappointment, anger and confusion.
Noah Lapaix, a senior studying psychology and sociology, spoke to the frustration he felt after coming across the video and the action he hopes to see taken. After representing UM in Homecoming’s first all-Black Royalty court, Lapaix feels that the actions in this video undermine the University’s efforts to promote a welcoming environment.
“I feel as if my presence at these events were just a display of diversity rather than a commitment to inclusion,” Lapaix said. “There is no reason for the University to allow students to treat people of color in this manner. This needs to be addressed immediately, and with the precedent in mind that content like CanesCritters is not funny. I plead with administration to do right by the students of color who make the experience of UM what it is.”
Aleen Almesmar, a third-year studying biology, expressed disappointment seeing UM represented in such a manner.
“I was so heartbroken to see that I came here to come to my dream school and these are the students representing this school?” Almesmar said. “That is just so unfair, especially to a stranger, a man you don’t even know. Something has to be done about this, they have to face the consequences so they can learn from what they have done.”
In light of administration’s response to Sigma Phi Epsilon’s (SigEp) recent removal from campus, some students are unsure of what to expect following this racist incident.
“I’d want them to attend racial sensitivity or antiracist workshops to teach them why that wasn’t okay,” third-year Matt Jimenez said. “Some people are saying they’ll get expelled, but that’s wishful thinking considering nothing happened to SigEp.”
All students enrolled at UM are bound by the Student’s Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, which outlines the potential consequences for bias-related incidents. Under the bias related incidents clause, UM states it is committed to a ‘Culture of Belonging’ where all community members can feel valued and connected to the school and encourages community members to step forward to report these incidents which are out of line with the university’s values.
“To that end the University is committed to encouraging everyone to report bias incidents that occur in our campus community so that inappropriate and unwelcome behavior may be properly addressed and the community at large can be educated,” said the Student’s Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.
All bias incident reports are investigated by the Dean of Students Office, where violation and appropriate disciplinary action are determined through the Student Conduct process.
UM offers many resources to maintain a welcoming environment and support UM’s wealth of diverse students. The office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA), which promotes a safe space where students can engage in dialogue and speak freely about issues, is accessible to all community members. MSA offers diversity training and workshops, as well as a form to report bias incidents. MSA defines bias incidents as those that occur whether the act is intentional or unintentional and are based on, but not limited to, age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability or political affiliation.
This article has been updated to reflect statements from CanesCritters and the University of Miami as of Nov. 10.