New developments in the Alpha Phi photo incident
On the morning of February 1, a racist Snapchat photo surfaced featuring two Alpha Phi sisters. The timing of such an incident, whether intentional or not, had extremely offensive implications as it occurred on the first day of Black History Month.
As the day progressed Provost Forrest Maltzman, The GW Student Association, GW Interfraternity Council, GW Panhellenic Association, Black Student Union, NAACP GWU Chapter, and others released statements. Alpha Phi removed all social media pages during the afternoon. Around the same time the SA Director of Greek Affairs and Alpha Phi member Julia Satin resigned, as reported by The Hatchet.
That night the Black Student Union and the Black Heritage Celebration committee hosted a town-hall where students addressed their concerns.
The GW Alpha Phi Facebook page did go back up and the sorority issued a statement in response. "We recognize that there are issues within our organization relating to our privilege and lack of diversity, and we are committed to listening to the voices of those who have been harmed by the actions of those individuals and by our actions as a chapter. The three members in question are in the process of having their membership terminated. At this time, we have reached out to the Multicultural Student Services Center in an effort to begin the process towards reconciliation and reeducation," it outlined.
The Rival has spoken with several of the girls directly and indirectly involved.
Lluvia Pérez, senior, was sent the image and then posted it to her Instagram story. “People deserve to know what happens in a seemingly liberal school,” she stated. She’s not in Alpha Phi and does not know the girls involved, but decided to post in the Facebook page, “Overheard at GW.” Perez said the caption in quote marks in from a girl in Alpha Phi. Then the post was taken down by the pages moderators. Perez proceeded to repost.
Perez decided to expose what happened because she took personal offense. She said, “People don't joke about the Holocaust, they don't joke about genocides, but people love to joke about slavery like it wasn't a shameful part of our history. People think it's an innocent joke when it's a glimpse at how deep rooted this mentality is in every body even your close friends, the cute girl in your class, your sorority sister!”
Since the photos release, it has been revealed that this, allegedly, is not the first racially charged incident involving GW's Alpha Phi chapter and the Panhellenic Association.
Nikole Rodrigues, senior, spoke with The Rival about her experience in Alpha Phi before she disaffiliated her junior year. After seeing the Snapchat story she took a screenshot it and re-posted it to her Instagram story because she was, “Extremely upset and disappointed. I felt the need to share the image below on social media because it's unacceptable and the people involved need to face repercussions. Furthermore, the Snapchat story reaffirmed my reasons for disaffiliating in the first place.”
Rodrigues also said that this was not her first experience with racism in Alpha Phi. Her family line was called, “Ethnic Lineage." She said, “In the moment, I was proud to be a part of this lineage; however, when looking back at this experience, it is disappointing that minorities were labeled "Ethnic" and this division inevitably created a divide between the minorities and other sisters in the chapter.”
Another involved the recruitment process for new sisters. Rodrigues stated, "My bump group included an Asian sister, black sister, a white sister, and me (Brazilian). For most of the days, my group was asked not to come and talk to PNMs. I was specifically told not to come to the third and fourth night. Although we were never told to not come back because we are minorities, it was pretty clear that the recruitment leaders wanted certain minorities to be included and others excluded. In the end, I felt a moral obligation to disaffiliate. Overall, Alpha Phi and other sororities, must include minorities during their recruitment process."
Recent alumna Alexandria Taliaferro tweeted several times about this. In an email interview she stated, “I think it's disgusting. It's become ever more apparent in recent years that racism is alive and well on college campuses across the nation, but seeing it so blatantly on my own campus was absolutely appalling. I'd say I'm disappointed but not at all surprised. The worst part has been some of the responses - while the majority of people have distanced themselves from the girl or stated their disgust with the photo, there have been more than a few people defending the girls "intent" or saying it was okay because the post was (allegedly) posted on the Snapstory of a friend of hers who is black. It's wild to me that so many of my fellow students don't understand that intent doesn't negate impact, especially when it comes to racism. Microaggressions in any form are often not INTENDED to be hurtful, but they almost always are.”
During her time at GW she was the Vice President of the GW NAACP. She was impressed by the speedy response the chapter issued. She credited their current president Abiola Agoro.
Taliaferro also spoke about her experiences early in her college career: “I considered rushing my freshman or sophomore year, I was told to speak to 'the black girl' in a certain sorority to get advice from her on what it's like to be black in Panhel. They legitimately referred to her as 'the black one' because there was LITERALLY only one. Needless to say, this is more than a little off putting for black and brown students. When I find things out like this, that blatant racism is rampant within Panhellenic Greek Life at GW, I immediately understand the lack of diversity. I truly hope that GW and Alpha Phi do what needs to be done and make an example of this student's situation and stands up for black and brown students - an unfortunately small but extremely powerful group on campus. We won't put up with this, and we will make our voices heard.”
In an email interview President of the GW Panhellenic Association Elizabeth Jessup stated, “I was notified of the picture this morning by members of the community and my advisor in the CSE, Travis Roberts. This photo does not reflect the values of the GW Panhellenic Association. Both Alpha Phi and the GW Administration responded immediately and are actively working to address the content of this photo.”
We’ve reached out to more parties involved and are awaiting responses. The Rival will continue to report on the situation as it develops.
The Rival welcomes all perspectives and opinions. If you have a view that is not reflected and would like to share email us at email@example.com.
Originally published by Courtney Buble on gw.therival.news on 2.2.18.
Update: This article was updated at 9:10 a.m. on February 2 to reflect the statement GW Alpha Phi made.
Correction: The town hall last night was hosted by the GW Black Heritage Celebration committee and Black Student Union, not the MSSC.