Student expelled after photo deemed discriminatory harassment

A Marquette University student was expelled after coming forward to explain the innocent context of a photo that had sparked charges of racism after it circulated on social media.

Alex Ruiz was found guilty of “discriminatory harassment” for using a service called “AirDrop” to send a photo that was interpreted as a racial threat, but only after he voluntarily identified himself to campus police in hopes of staving off the burgeoning campus-wide controversy.

The photo in question, which was released to media, depicts Ruiz and three of his friends (none of whom are Marquette students) pointing an airsoft gun at a black doll alongside the caption, “Chuuch,” which Urban Dictionary defines as slang for “Amen.” 

[RELATED: Marquette forum says 'white community' 'perpetuates racism'] 

Ruiz told Campus Reform that the photo was taken in a different state years before he ever enrolled at Marquette, adding that the doll was not intended to have racial connotations, and was simply something that one of the boys was known to carry around with him regularly.

The boys referred to the doll as “Bill,” and Ruiz’s father described it to Campus Reform as being similar to “a troll which people carry around.” 

One night, according to a campus police “Incident Report” obtained by Campus Reform, Alex and friends were playing a “game” in which they would randomly scroll through their phones while the “Apple Airdrop” function was on, which allows photos to be sent to all nearby devices without specifying a recipient, resulting in the photo being unintentionally shared with a classmate.

According to the university, “sending [photos] to another person is harassment.” Ruiz and his father both told Campus Reform that they are deeply “apologetic” about what occurred, but feel that the university was not fair in its handling of the matter.

[RELATED: McAdams defeats Marquette in WI Supreme Court]

Ruiz’s father asserted that he had made “multiple attempts” to contact university officials, even calling President Michael Lovell, but said Lovell ignored “multiple requests” to speak to the family even after they flew from Colorado to Marquette to meet with school administrators.

Ruiz’s family originally immigrated to the United States three years

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