The University of Georgia chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha has self-suspended indefinitely after screenshots of racist messages in a GroupMe for the chapter were posted to Twitter Saturday evening, according to a Sunday statement from Interfraternity Council President Brennan Cox.
Cox said in the statement that IFC has notified the UGA Equal Opportunity Office to investigate the issue in relation to the university’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policy.
Arianna Mbunwe, a junior political science major, posted screenshots of the racist, homophobic, sexist and other offensive messages from the GroupMe after receiving them from a source. In a GroupMe titled “Sex Drugs and Darby House,” GroupMe members ridiculed Mbunwe’s tweets about UGA Greek Life’s response to COVID-19 and its members choosing to party and go to bars downtown without social distancing.
Mbunwe has been posting news tips, screenshots and other messages that are critical of the UGA community’s overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her tweets began to catch large attention in August.
One GroupMe member said in the screenshots, “Lord give me the strength to not call that woman a racial slur.” The message received 11 likes.
Another GroupMe member with the screen name of “Ghost of Aunt Jemima” said, “[She] just sits in her room saying how white people are racist because she’s mad she didn’t get a bid lmao.”
However, the messages in the screenshots also revealed other conversations in the GroupMe involving racist, sexist, homophobic and offensive language not specific to Mbunwe and her tweets.
The messages come after a summer of racial reckoning in UGA Greek Life. This reckoning was prompted by a group of former Panhellenic Council sorority members, who formed the organization Pledge Against Racism to hold UGA IFC and Panhellenic accountable for racism.
PAR collected more than a hundred testimonials that discussed present and former members’ experiences of racism in IFC and Panhellenic. After the testimonials were released, UGA Greek Life created a Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Mbunwe said she saw the messages after the protest she organized Saturday afternoon.
“I was so taken aback,” Mbunwe said. “But I'm not surprised at the same time that people have these types of conversations in the group chat.”
GroupMe members mocked one of Mbunwe’s tweets which said the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects Black people in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several national news outlets have reported COVID-19 disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minority groups.
Hundreds of individuals have remarked on the screenshots. Some demanded UGA act, while others were angered and upset by Greek life and its history with racism at UGA.
“This honestly puts tears in my eyes. I love this school, but being a poc [person of color] here can be so exhausting sometimes. It’s not right,” one tweet said.
Russell Edwards, Athens-Clarke County District 7 commissioner, also commented on Mbunwe’s tweet thread.
Cox condemned the messages in the statement released Sunday.
“These disparaging remarks are odious to the Council’s desire for any member of the University community to feel welcomed in Greek Life and on campus,” Cox said in the statement. “We have much work toward this vision, and the Council remains committed to forging such reality for our generation, and the next.”
When The Red & Black reached out for additional information, Cox declined to comment further as the investigation is “ongoing.”
Mbunwe said IFC has not reached out to her as of press time.
“I’m just baffled that they didn’t reach out to me at all,” Mbunwe said in a message to The Red & Black.
Mbunwe said she plans on reaching out to UGA Student Affairs on Monday.
“It is disheartening to know people feel that way about certain [BIPOC] students on campus,” Mbunwe said. “But I can't change what they said. The only thing I can really do is try to ... have consequences for what they said."
UGA released a statement on Monday condemning the "outrageous and offensive comments."
According to the release, the situation is currently under investigation by the Equal Opportunity Office in accordance with the university's Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policy.
"Such statements of bigotry and intolerance do not have any place on our campus," the release said.
The Red & Black is reaching out to the member chapter, national chapter, Pledge Against Racism and UGA Student Affairs for additional comments.
Anila Yoganathan contributed to this reporting.