George Washington University investigating racist Snapchat photo linked to Alpha Phi sorority

- On the first day of Black History Month, George Washington University is investigating a racist photo linked to a sorority.

The picture shows a young woman holding a banana peel with a caption that says, “Izzy: I’m 1/16 black.” There is another woman alongside her smiling in the photo as well.

The photo spread on social media Thursday morning after it was reportedly posted to Snapchat Wednesday night.

The two students are believed to be part of the Alpha Phi sorority. The university confirms it has been in touch with the national chapter of Alpha Phi.

On Thursday evening, George Washington students met to talk about the situation. A student inside the meeting told FOX 5 more than 150 people showed up and the meeting had to be moved to a bigger space.

“I think students are just disappointed,” said Imani Ross, a member of the George Washington University Student Association. “This is a fellow peer, a fellow classmate and for a student to think that was acceptable to do is just wrong.”

Graduate student Tyrell Garner attended the meeting and said it seems most people don’t want to see the two girls expelled, but do want some consequences.

“I would accept an apology and I could move past it,” said Garner. “We can all I’m sure could move past it, but first, it has to be addressed.”

Just a few weeks ago, an Alpha Phi member at the University of Alabama posted two obscene, racist videos on social media and was expelled from her school.

“Things like these are happening on a lot of college campuses,” said Michael Ferrier, a George Washington University sophomore. “It’s a blatant disrespect for other people’s history and for the community as a whole.”

Another student told FOX 5 he does not believe racism is a widespread problem at George Washington, but something specific to individuals.

“My view about racism is, I believe, it depends on where you come from, how you were raised up and who raised you up,” said graduate student Isaac Amoah. “So if you come from a community where they consider blacks as inferior, then you are going to behave like that.”

George Washington University’s Panhellenic Council, which governs fraternities and sororities, apologized in a statement on Thursday. The university’s chapter of Alpha Phi took down its social media pages Thursday, but its Facebook page was seen back up later at night.

A message posted on the GW Alpha Phi Facebook page Thursday night, but was later deleted said:

Alpha Phi is a values-based organization that has no tolerance for racism or racist “humor” in any form, including that implied by a recent social media post. Regardless of the circumstances or true intentions of those involved, the end result was offensive and hurtful. As a result, the membership status of those involved has been suspended for a period of reflection while final sanctions are determined. We apologize deeply to the campus community and the rest of the Alpha Phi organization for the post and the hurt that it has caused. We will work hard to repair the damage and feelings hurt by this event.

In a statement, George Washington University provost Forrest Maltzman wrote:

There was an entirely inappropriate posting on social media last night. Whatever the circumstance, or true intention of those involved, the image was disturbing, hurtful and not reflective of who I know we are as a community. As a university, we have emphasized our commitment to inclusion and have made clear that “You are Welcome Here." We do this through our actions and our words. Images like the one posted on social media can make people question whether they are welcome at the university, and that is unacceptable to me.

Unfortunately, we have heard and read about too many instances of racist language and imagery on college campuses. They reflect the need for an ongoing discourse about race. Universities are special places that thrive because of the diverse perspectives and background of those who study, teach, research and work on those campuses.

Since the report, we have been in active dialogue with the national headquarters of Alpha Phi and students on campus who have been affected. We take this very seriously.

I hope we utilize these occasions to engage in dialogue across our community. We must remember that words and symbols have tremendous consequences. And, when they are made without regard to how those who receive them react, we can cause harm and hinder the university’s ability to achieve the preeminence to which we all aspire.

There was an entirely inappropriate posting on social media last night. Whatever the circumstance, or true intention of those involved, the image was disturbing, hurtful and not reflective of who I know we are as a community. As a university, we have emphasized our commitment to inclusion and have made clear that “You are Welcome Here." We do this through our actions and our words. Images like the one posted on social media can make people question whether they are welcome at the university, and that is unacceptable to me.

Unfortunately, we have heard and read about too many instances of racist language and imagery on college campuses. They reflect the need for an ongoing discourse about race. Universities are special places that thrive because of the diverse perspectives and background of those who study, teach, research and work on those campuses.

Since the report, we have been in active dialogue with the national headquarters of Alpha Phi and students on campus who have been affected. We take this very seriously.

I hope we utilize these occasions to engage in dialogue across our community. We must remember that words and symbols have tremendous consequences. And, when they are made without regard to how those who receive them react, we can cause harm and hinder the university’s ability to achieve the preeminence to which we all aspire.

This story was first reported by The GW Hatchet.

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