A University of North Texas student and her attorney said they are preparing a lawsuit against UNT, after sophomore Chelsea Shaw got a receipt from a food vendor in the student union with a racial slur typed on it. "I saw the N-word on there," explained Shaw. "Just in bold letters."
"There is a clear case for racial discrimination," said Justin Moore, Shaw's attorney.
Shaw posted a photo of her receipt on Twitter, writing “I need answers.” As word spread, UNT's president sent an email to students explaining a student cook, fired for typing the racist slur on an African American student's receipt, was the same race. The email went on to say "use of the term is never OK".
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"At the end of the day, hate is hate," said Moore. "If it's being used by an agent of your university, it needs to be approached in the same manner as if a white person did it."
The incident happened on Tuesday at inside the University Union on campus. University officials said a cook used the cash register to write on the receipt. Shaw an her attorney want to see surveillance video to confirm it was, in fact, the cook and not the clerk, who was not African American.
Shaw said the incident has made her feel unsafe on her own campus. "It's just this constant feeling of being judged and being considered not good enough by someone," she explained. "It's hurtful."
On campus, news of the receipt spread quickly with some describing their visceral reaction to seeing the word written on the receipt.
“Aggression, intimidation, those are the first things that come to my mind, like someone trying to strike fear,” said Bailey Rose-Holton, a UNT senior.
UNT President Neal Smatresk called the incident unacceptable and offered to meet one on one with the student who received the receipt. University officials said they are reviewing any additional disciplinary action for the student employee who created the receipt.
Here is the official notice from UNT's President emailed to students Wednesday:
Dear UNT students, faculty and staff,
You may have seen the news coverage of an incident that occurred yesterday at one of our University Union dining facilities where a student employee used a racial slur as the ID for a student customer on their receipt.
Immediately upon learning of the incident, our Dining Services unit looked into what happened, discovered who was responsible and terminated the individual who used this slur.
I quickly responded to the conversation in social media and want to repeat that this kind of speech is contrary to our values. Our university community has a deep history of treating each other respectfully and caring for one another.
From listening to discussions in social media, it appears as though assumptions are being made about the race of the person responsible. It is important to know that both the customer and employee were the same race, and regardless of other societal views it is my belief that the use of this term is never OK.
I am proud that our university responded swiftly and I know that as a campus community we will continue to embrace our diversity and encourage being inclusive and celebratory of each of our community members for the individuals they are.
Shaw is demanding the restaurant be closed, but UNT tells NBC DFW the university will not close the restaurant.