Tweet of Penn State girls showing off swastikas sparks outrage

Penn State said it does not have the power to expel the student identified because it violates the First Amendment.

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

Three women posing, two of them with swastikas on their back shoulders, went viral on social media last week.

According to Penn State University’s The Daily Collegian, one of the women pictured is Penn State student Ryan Milligan and the identity of the others is still unknown.

In response, Penn State tweeted on Monday “The reported anti-Semitic post is deeply disturbing and sickening” and it’s working to verify the identities of the people involved.

A petition on Change.org is calling for Milligan, said to be pursuing a degree in rehabilitation and human services, to be expelled immediately.

“Allowing her to remain a student of Penn State is a disservice to all Jewish people, living or dead,” the petition signed by over 140,000 people states.

“It is not enough for Penn State to say that they are going to contact Ryann Milligan. This photo is terrifying and extremely threatening, and it is not to be taken lightly,” according to the petition.

“It sends the message that anti-Semitic actions and ideals are accepted and that Penn State doesn’t care about protecting its Jewish students, as well as other oppressed and underrepresented minorities,” the petition read.

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“Ryann Milligan is a Rehabilitation and Human Services major, meaning she is being trained by Penn State to have a career in advocating for and helping others. How can Penn State allow itself to continue training an antisemitic person to hold such a career?” it added.

However, in a statement on Wednesday, Penn State said it does not have the power to expel Milligan because it violates the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause.

“A public university does not have the power to expel students over speech, no matter how morally reprehensible it may be,” the statement said, adding that it does have the power to “condemn racism and address those who violate our values.”

In Dec. 2019, President Donald Trump acknowledged the rise of anti-Semitism on college campuses by signing an executive order affirming civil rights protections for Jewish students.

The order makes clear that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which applies to programs that receive federal funding, including colleges and universities, protects against anti-Semitic discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.