Yesterday, Duke Vice President Larry Moneta announced a “hiatus” from Facebook after the ruthless Duke Memes for Gothicc Teens Facebook group posted some, um, interesting screenshots of Moneta’s Facebook posts from China. He was traveling there to visit Duke’s campus in Kunshan.
In the triptych of screenshots, Moneta posts “Mexican Tomato Chicken Flavor” and “Italian Red Meat Flavor” bags of Lays potato chips, a screenshot of an air quality rating for the city of Kunshan, and a photo of a squat toilet flanked by a plunger and toilet brush. Each post was captioned, “Reason to move to China … NOT!”
(Worth noting: The Chinese government blocks Facebook within the country. A VPN is necessary to get past the governmental firewall, so Moneta would have had to make use of one in order to post to his personal Facebook page.)
The posts, of course, were perhaps in poor taste for an administrator on a university-sponsored trip to a campus that has already been a source of controversy for Duke. The multimillion-dollar project required years-long negotiations with Chinese officials in order to ensure that freedom of expression for students and faculty would be protected; uncertainties and fears remain.
Some undergrads—including WIll Brodner, who first posted the triptych (along with a shot of Moneta’s face superimposed onto Hugh Jackman’s face on the The Greatest Showman movie poster) to the Duke Memes for Gothicc Teens group, and the nearly five hundred people who liked that post within the first twenty-four hours—found Moneta’s faux pas a source of considerable amusement.
Michelle Li, the president of Duke’s Asian Students Association, did not. “It’s obvious to us from the posts that they are, at best, very culturally insensitive and, at worst, very racist,” she told The Duke Chronicle.
“I’ve put my FB ‘on hiatus’ for awhile as I think through what is appropriate for me with regard to social media,” Moneta wrote in an email to the student paper.
This isn’t Moneta’s first public breakup with social media this year. In May, Moneta deleted his Twitter account after he ordered the firings of two baristas at the Joe van Gogh on Duke’s campus because the coffeehouse was playing a rap song he found offensive. Young Dolphgate—which the INDY first reported and which subsequently went viral—came just weeks after Moneta tweeted that those who want to ban hate speech should go read a book about free speech on campus, and a year after he decried vandalism of Confederate monuments.
In August, Duke announced that Moneta would retire at the end of the academic year in 2019.