Students react to Alpha Phi Snapchat controversy at town hall

Students gathered at the GW Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC) Thursday evening in reaction to an image posted on Snapchat overnight. The post shows two Alpha Phi sorority members, one of whom is holding a banana peel. The caption says: “[Name]: I’m 1/16 black."

Turnout was so high for the meeting, titled “An Open Discussion for the Black Community," that it was relocated to Funger Hall. Students vocally expressed their opinions and many remarks shared a common sentiment.

Several students suggested an expansion of diversity training on campus and emphasized the need for serious discussion about racism within the GW community. Student Association Senator Tyrell Garner said that expanded training “will only contain” the issue of racism and that additional action is necessary. Another individual noted that the sorority participated in diversity training in January and that it did not prevent this incident from happening.

Numerous students asserted their views that GW’s administration should take action against Alpha Phi, many of them stating that the sorority should no longer have a presence on campus. One student also mentioned a racist video posted in mid-January by an Alpha Phi member at the University of Alabama, suggesting that a culture of racism exists within the organization. Another student accentuated that the sorority member’s decision to post the image to Snapchat “was a very conscious action."

Several people suggested that a "national conversation" needs to take place and the group developed the hashtags "#AlphaPhiNot4Me" and "#AlphaPhiBigotry" to be used on social media.

Many students said that existing sorority policies regarding racism and discrimination need to be expanded and that the University needs to more clearly delineate its values to incoming students. Students also cited a letter released today by GW’s NAACP chapter which includes recommendations for addressing the issue of racism on campus.

GW administrators were also present at the meeting to respond to students’ concerns. Travis Roberts, Advisor to GW’s Panhellenic Association, explained that he has been in communication with Alpha Phi headquarters and that the individuals in the Snapchat image have been contacted about suspending their membership in the sorority. Panhellenic President Elizabeth Jessup was also present at the meeting and explained, “we need to keep making progress and I’m committed to doing that.”

In response to questions about what action the University will take against Alpha Phi, Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller noted that administrators share students’ concerns but that many questions cannot be answered immediately. Provost Forrest Maltzman said that he was disappointed when he saw the Snapchat post, stating, “we need to use this as an opportunity to look at policy.” Maltzman also emphasized, “this institution is better than that post reflected.”

Originally published on gw.therival.news by Stephanie Gemmell on 2.2.2018.

CampusStephanie Gemmell