University ‘looking into’ racist Snapchat post depicting sorority members

Media Credit: Snapchat User

A Snapchat post emerged Thursday morning purporting to show members of Alpha Phi with a racist caption.

Updated: Feb. 2, 2018 at 12:49 p.m.

The University is “looking into” a Snapchat post that emerged Thursday morning purporting to show two members of a sorority chapter that includes a racist caption.

The photo appears to depict two members of Alpha Phi, one of whom is posing with an empty banana peel. The photo is captioned: “Izzy: ‘I’m 1/16 black.'” It appears to have been taken in Alpha Phi’s on-campus townhouse.

The people in the photo have not been publicly identified and the women pictured did not post or caption the photo.

As word of the image spread, generating a storm of outrage on campus, the University said it would examine the incident, the provost called the photo “entirely inappropriate” and the Panhellenic Association apologized.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said the University became aware of the post Thursday morning.

“We are looking into it,” she said in an email, declining to elaborate.

GW’s Alpha Phi chapter apologized for the incident Friday morning and said the three members involved would be kicked out of the chapter. The statement did not identify the members who would be expelled.

“We are culpable for this action as a group in which a few felt comfortable making a joke that was distinctly racist, ignorant and harmful. We are in no way trying to contextualize, excuse or forgive the events that occurred,” the group wrote.

Friday’s statement came after an initial post apologizing for the incident and committing to suspend the members involved was deleted shortly after being posted.

The chapter president did not immediately return a request for further comment. Representatives from Alpha Phi’s national organization did not a request for comment.

In a statement posted to Facebook Thursday afternoon, the Panhellenic Association apologized for the “hurt and anger caused by this photo.”

“As an organization that seeks to promote connection and empowerment of all people, this photo runs directly counter to our values and cannot be tolerated,” leaders of the group wrote in the statement. “Regardless of the members’ intent, racist images and statements like this contribute to an oppressive culture that threatens the security and welfare of people of color throughout the United States.”

Council members said all Panhel chapter presidents committed to creating diversity and inclusion plans for their chapters at a leadership retreat last month and Panhel is working on a similar plan for the whole organization.

Panhellenic Association President Elizabeth Jessup said in an email she was notified of the photo Thursday morning.

She deferred to Alpha Phi and the University for further comment.

The existence of the photo became widely known across campus Thursday morning when a few students including, Student Association Sen. Imani Ross, U-At-large, tweeted it out and called on officials to respond.

GW’s official account responded to the posts, asking to direct message the students for more information.

“We take this seriously and we’re going to look into it,” GW’s account tweeted in response to Ross’ post.

Ross said in an email that she has been in discussions with Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller and Michael Tapscott, the director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, about the incident. She said she originally intended to meet with Provost Forrest Maltzman and University President Thomas LeBlanc, but said they are not the “appropriate” officials to be holding meetings with at the present time.

She did not return return requests for further comment.

The photo drew swift and strong outrage as the image spread on social media.

GW’s NAACP chapter released a statement Thursday evening calling on the University to “reprimand” the sorority, saying the students pictured displayed “disappointing and hateful behavior towards black students.”

The group said the incident was indicative of a larger diversity problem within Greek life.

“This post is more than a joke, it’s the product of a community that touts its inclusivity, but doesn’t look at the dark underbelly,” the group wrote in a statement. “It’s time for GW to take a stand against hate speech and injustice and show its students that this behavior should never be acceptable.”

The Black Student Union, in a statement posted to Instagram Thursday, said it was a “shame” that Black History Month began with posts from the GW community containing “racially insensitive content.”

“Unfortunately, racially charged incidents including bananas and black students continue to arise at college campuses across the country,” the statement read. “These acts are ignorant and problematic.”

Members of the Black Student Union declined to comment further on the situation “until we have more time to accurately meet with our community.” The group will host an open mic Thursday for students to voice concerns about the incident, according to the Instagram statement.

The incident comes about six months after former University President Steven Knapp condemned racist incidents at nearby American University and the University of Maryland. At AU, the noose was formed out of bananas and the letters “AKA” were written underneath, referring to a predominately black sorority at the university.

In a statement, SA President Peak Sen Chua condemned “racially insensitive and offensive behavior, language and beliefs in any form.”

“The Student Association will advocate on behalf of students and work with the University administration to ensure that black students feel safe and supported on our campus,” he said in the statement.

Julia Satin, the SA’s director of Greek affairs for Panhel and a member of Alpha Phi, resigned Thursday amid the controversy, Chua said.

Satin did not immediately return a request for comment.

Sydney Harvey, a sophomore and a member of Chi Omega, said the photo had been shared in a group message for students of color on the messaging application GroupMe. She said the post had also been circulating on Instagram, Twitter and other messaging apps.

“I know that there needs to be an example made out of this because this was posted on a platform that was supposed to be shared to the masses and they thought it was funny,” she said.

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