A UF student will no longer serve as a Student Government official after screenshots of racist messages he wrote in 2015 resurfaced overnight.
Former Internal Affairs Agency Head Branden Pearson, a UF international business master’s student, confirmed in a text to The Alligator Friday that he made racist and offensive comments in private group messages when he was in high school.
The messages included racial slurs for Black and Hispanic people and promptings for self-harm.
Pearson called his comments unacceptable and immature in a text to The Alligator. When he made the comments, his family was dealing with domestic violence and harassment issues, he said.
That doesn’t justify what he said, he added, but gives one an idea of his headspace at the time.
“I’m so sorry to my friends and family, and the entire UF black community for my hateful rhetoric,” he wrote. “Nobody should ever use the hateful rhetoric I used in high school. It was not acceptable five years ago and it is not acceptable today.”
The terms of Pearson’s exit are unclear. Pearson said he resigned Friday morning, while Student Body President Trevor Pope said Pearson was terminated after his comments were released on social media.
Pope nominated Pearson for the Internal Affairs Agency Head position in April, but senators from both SG parties sent the nomination back to Pope for reconsideration. However, Pope nominated Pearson a second time, and Senate approved him Tuesday night.
Pope wrote in an email to The Alligator that racist comments were “unbecoming of a Student Government official,” and that Pearson was terminated immediately. Pearson’s name is still listed under his former position on the SG website as of Friday afternoon.
“Moving forward, we’re going to be taking preventative and corrective action regarding our Student Government officials,” Pope wrote.
It is unclear what preventive or corrective action Pope referred to.
Sen. Colin Solomon (Independent, Keys Complex) objected during public comment both times Pearson was nominated and did not vote to approve him. He created a petition during Senate Tuesday night asking for Pearson to be removed because he is homophobic, he said.
Solomon said a student from Pearson’s high school shared the screenshots of Pearson’s racist messages with him after seeing the petition. The senator decided to post the screenshots to his Facebook early Friday morning because he didn’t want anyone else to be hurt by Pearson, he said.
This is only one of SG’s recent dealings with racism.
Senate passed a resolution, or declaration of opinion, Tuesday condemning the racist social media posts of a prospective UF student and supporting the university for rescinding the student’s admission.
It is unclear if UF did in fact rescind the student’s application, or how the university will respond to Pearson’s comments.