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UNLV student president’s racist tweets from 2013 resurface

Updated October 8, 2019 - 2:40 pm

UNLV’s student body president has come under fire on social media for racist tweets about black and “dark-skinned” people made in 2013.

Senior Hannah Patenaude posted a statement on her Twitter account Monday expressing regret for the posts on Twitter, which include a reply to another user complaining about incidents of theft at his high school. Patenaude replied “you go to a black people school.”

“There have been a few tweets that have surfaced from my account from 2013 that I deeply regret. They do not reflect my views and I attribute moving to the West Coast and attending UNLV to my growth as a person,” Patenaude said in her statement. “My understanding of diversity and the experiences of POC (people of color) has changed drastically and I continue to learn more everyday about others’ perspectives.”

Patenaude did not immediately return a request for comment from the Review-Journal Tuesday morning.

Asked whether Patenaude had been asked to apologize or resign, UNLV spokeswoman Cindy Brown said: “We haven’t heard any specifics at this point but we’ll look into it and if we have updates I’ll let (the reporter) know.”

On social media, student reaction to the tweets was divided, with supporters of Patenaude’s pointing out that the tweets were posted years ago while Patenaude was in high school in South Carolina.

“We grew up in one of the most racist states in the country. We literally didn’t know any better because that’s how we grew up,” one user tweeted. “As a 15 year old, you still regurgitate what we are exposed to. Now, to see how far SHE has come is something all of us could learn from.”

But other students tweeted that Patenaude’s apology rang hollow, connecting her past tweets to a recent student body meeting regarding a funding request from the Interfraternity Council. A statement from the IFC says student body representatives, including Patenaude, pushed “anti-Greek” sentiment at the meeting, including referring to fraternities as exclusive.

Another tweet said: “Im tired of us fraternities getting the stigma of being ‘exclusive’ when clearly CSUN is allowing a racist to make these claims i mean you do have a point we are exclusive we dont let racists in,” referencing the Consolidated Students of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which is the student body government.

In an interview with the Review-Journal, IFC President Devon Brown said his statement attracted a lot of attention online, which may have led to curiosity about Patenaude and somebody stumbling upon those past tweets.

Brown added that there was no concerted effort on the part of IFC members to dig up dirt on Patenaude.

“It’s unfortunate that it took the denial of our funding request for this to come to light, but that doesn’t take away that there needs to be accountability,” Brown said.

Brown said that he expects to attend meetings with other organization presidents to discuss next steps.

Student Mario Romero added that while the confrontation over the IFC funding may have led to some students calling for Patenaude’s impeachment, whether or not that incident led to the tweets surfacing was unimportant.

“Whether it was or wasn’t, the fact that those facts came out hurt her reputation and the school’s reputation,” Romero said.

Romero added that after speaking with Patenaude Tuesday, he believes she is genuinely remorseful.

“Her whole life is potentially ruined because of stuff she said as a minor who didn’t know any better, especially during the times where nobody really cared what one said on Twitter,” Romero said.

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at aappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0218. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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