I want to provide an update on the university’s response to the offensive social media post that was made last week.
University staff have now completed the initial fact-finding process, which involved numerous interviews including with the two individuals pictured in the image and the individual who posted it. Staff have also reviewed electronic data and it is consistent with the statements that have been made.
What they have learned through the fact-finding process is that the quoted caption featured in the text on the picture did not occur when the picture was taken. Furthermore, the individuals pictured were unaware of the social media posting and its content until after it was posted. The picture was posted by a person who has said that they did not intend to offend others and acknowledged that the women in the picture did not know or approve of the associated caption.
That said, the image was offensive and racially inflammatory—resulting in great harm to our community. Students are also telling us that strong reaction to the post was not just about this image, but about far deeper concerns regarding race relations and inclusion on our campus. This incident has clearly signaled that racial tension at the university needs to be confronted. We need to speak with one voice in saying racist acts against black students on this campus will not be tolerated.
Alpha Phi sorority has apologized for the incident and acknowledged issues within the sorority. University staff are communicating with the national headquarters and considering appropriate actions. Additionally, we will be further examining the role Greek life plays on our campus.
We have to use this moment not to focus on hostility toward individuals or groups, but as a catalyst to truly improve our community by embracing our diversity. We want to harness the energy that has been generated by this moment to move with purpose and a sense of urgency toward ensuring all students truly feel welcome on this campus.
Many groups and individuals on campus have called for mandatory diversity training for freshman students, and that is one of the steps I am announcing today. We will also begin implementing the following suggestions:
- Make diversity training mandatory for all incoming students in the fall of 2018.
- Require diversity training for residential life staff, RAs, Colonial Inauguration leaders, admissions staff, tour guides, and other staff members who work closely with students.
- Update the student code of conduct to address non-sex based harassment and discrimination.
- Update the university’s equal opportunity policy to include definitions and procedures to address forms of harassment beyond sexual harassment.
- Establish a bias incident reporting system to track and address verbal harassment and other forms of unwelcome conduct motivated by hatred based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, etc. Anonymous reporting will be a feature of this new reporting system.
- Establish a GW Race in America speaker series.
- Regarding the imminent search for a dean of the student experience, make documented leadership skills in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion a required core competency of the position.
- Require diversity training for all recruitment chairs and new member educators within the Greek community.
- Work with Multicultural Greek Council to identify opportunities for on-campus Greek housing.
Additionally, university leaders will actively collaborate with student leaders to develop a comprehensive action plan that incorporates these measures and additional suggestions within the next 45 days. I will keep the community updated and will hold a town hall with interested students in the next two weeks. I encourage your involvement as we move forward together.