On March 22, The University of Georgia chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity found itself embroiled in controversy after a video featuring four unidentified members egging on the use of racial slurs went viral.
Christian Varughese, a former TKE member, released the video and reported the incident. This is his story, transcribed from his interview with The Red & Black.
Where did you first see the video?
There’s another [TKE] GroupMe, which is basically for informal conversations, random things that people put, memes, any jokes. I was on there, and I don’t really check the [TKE] GroupMe that much ... The one time that I checked it, I saw a random video. The first time I saw it, I didn’t click on it, I thought it was the guys playing around as usual. [The next day,] I was looking at it again, and I was bored at home. I clicked on it and put on the audio, and that’s when I saw what I saw and I heard everything that the guys were talking about. After that, I thought about it for a bit—it took me half the day, and I thought about what exactly I should do, and my first option was to run it through the president of our fraternity.
Why did you decide to take action outside of the fraternity?
I didn’t want to make it so worrisome for the organization, and I knew these guys weren’t going to get kicked out at the same time, and that was my end goal because I knew it was basically going to be an ongoing PR issue. Others in the fraternity felt the same way about these guys—it being a PR issue. We’ve had other occurrences in the past with some of the new guys here, but I decided to go straight to Interfraternity Council to really get the ball rolling and so solid action could be taken.
I sent the video, then talked about my concern, and I told them immediately that I wanted to get out of the fraternity, to get my name out of there and not be affiliated with the organization anymore. I also emailed the national chapter.
Why did you decide to put the video on social media?
The people I communicated with were involved in more social media platforms compared to me. They also had more connections where the information would have a greater impact. One of my friends knew someone in the UGA chapter of NAACP. It was all about creating as much exposure and impact as possible so the right amount of people could understand what was going on ... I initially wanted to remain anonymous from my fraternity so that was another reason why I didn’t want to post it myself.
Was racist language an issue in the fraternity before this occurred?
I wouldn’t say that it’s very consistent. There’s been small jokes, but nothing too extreme where it ends up mocking slavery. Things like some of the guys joking about my [Pacific Islander/Indian] ethnicity, but it was a comfortable thing for me—it was nothing extreme. I do not mean to picture the fraternity as a whole as a racist fraternity, but definitely, I was concerned that the membership of these individuals would definitely hurt us long-term if we were to keep them in the fraternity. That was my concern—when we don’t deserve that sort of branding, especially when we’re not racists, it does concern me to have those people in our organization.