Updated: Sept. 20, 2019 at 1:51 p.m.
Officials are working to gather information on a Snapchat post from a sorority president’s account that appears to show the front of a plantation gift shop with a racist caption.
The photo is captioned “‘I wonder if they sell slaves'” and appears to have been posted from the account of Phi Sigma Sigma President Alison Janega, according to a screenshot obtained by The Hatchet Wednesday.
Janega did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Michelle Ardern, the executive director of the national Phi Sigma Sigma headquarters, said it was her understanding that a member of GW’s chapter made a “distressing and highly offensive” comment on social media over the summer. She said the post was shared with the chapter’s international headquarters and referred to the standards board.
“The actions of a singular individual do not represent our chapter nor our organization,” she said in an email. “As always, we look to maintain our commitment to hold our sister accountable for her actions and provide the space to educate and inform our sister to the power and destruction words can have.”
University President Thomas LeBlanc said officials were contacted with “concerns” about the photo Wednesday. Officials in the GW Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement are working with students to “gather information and determine the most appropriate steps forward,” he said.
“The University is committed to raising awareness and deepening our understanding of issues related to race,” LeBlanc said in an email. “We encourage civil dialogue and make available to our community mechanisms to raise concerns and bring situations like this to the attention of University leadership.”
The photo comes about a year and a half after a racist Snapchat post featuring two members of Alpha Phi emerged on campus in February 2018, leading to a slew of diversity and inclusion initiatives, like mandatory diversity and inclusion training during freshman orientation and the hiring of a diversity and inclusion education director.
Panhellenic Association leaders said they acknowledge “the pain and the hurt that an image posted on social media has caused and is causing.” Leaders said that members of the community must hold one another accountable for racist acts and work to combat discrimination “of all types” in sorority life.
“As an organization that seeks to foster connection and empowerment, this type of thought and action fails to meet the expectations we should have for the Panhellenic community,” leaders wrote in an email. “We are committed to providing space for healing, learning, and are prepared to continue working together within our community and with the GW community.”
Student Association President SJ Matthews and SA Executive Vice President Amy Martin condemned the post, saying they “do not condone acts of intolerance in any form” and that the post violates the University’s values of diversity and inclusion.” SA leaders said that while officials have made strides to address a racist post involving members of Alpha Phi, “we clearly have so much further to go.”
“We can no longer wait until these events occur to take reactive measures; we must be proactive in taking a stance against prejudice,” SA leaders wrote.
University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said GW offers several options for students to report allegations of bias or discrimination, like a bias incident reporting system that allows students to ask for assistance in education and counseling parties involved with a complaint and a compliance hotline where students can submit allegations of discrimination.
Members of Phi Sigma Sigma’s executive board did not return requests for comment.
Sarah Roach contributed reporting.
While we understand that the decision offends some of our readers, The Hatchet chose to publish an image of the racist Snapchat post in its entirety to give our audience the most pertinent information of the story. We believe it would be journalistic malpractice to withhold relevant information in our possession from our audience on a sensitive topic such as this one, a decision that adheres to the practice of other national news outlets.