A University of Georgia fraternity self-suspended its operations over the weekend after racist messages from a chapter group messaging app were posted to Twitter.
Screenshots of the offensive messages pulled from a private GroupMe for the school's Lambda Chi Alpha chapter were posted Saturday evening by an African American student at the university who said some of the comments were directed at her.
The student, Arianna Mbunwe, has posted photos and videos on Twitter of students appearing to flout social distancing guidelines and gathering without masks since Aug. 23. She has also has been critical of the university's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The university did not immediately return a request for information about the number of confirmed coronavirus cases at the school.
Mbunwe, 20, a junior who is majoring in political science, said she received the screenshots from a friend after a rally she had organized Saturday demanding that the university take further action to slow the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
"They were targeting me because my account has become very popular for exposing the people who are contributing to the rise in cases," she said in an interview Monday.
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In a Sept. 5 tweet, Mbunwe criticized a member of a sorority at the university who was alleged to have broken social distancing guidelines. The same person, she said, had posted a black square on her Instagram account June 2 in solidarity with the #BlackoutTuesday social media campaign calling for racial justice.
"Posts a black square but then goes downtown to party when this virus is disproportionately affecting Black people? @ugaalphaphi this yall?" Mbunwe tweeted Sept. 5 at the university's Alpha Phi sorority. The sorority did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.
In a GroupMe chat room titled "Sex Drugs and Darby House," Lambda Chi Alpha members responded to Mbunwe's tweet criticizing the sorority.
"Lord give me the strength to not call that woman a racial slur," a GroupMe member wrote. Another GroupMe member with the username "Ghost of Aunt Jemima" wrote: "I guarantee you she ... just sits in her room saying how white people are racist because she's mad she didn't get a bid lmao."
And another member with a vulgar username wrote: "Coronavirus: Sees white girl, flees cause she has privilege" and "Also Coronavirus: Sees black person, assumes they are probably poor and lack health insurance, attacks."
The university's Interfraternity Council president, Brennan Cox, said in a statement Sunday that the council was "aware of the racist, sexist and otherwise discriminatory comments made within a GroupMe" for the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter, which had suspended itself indefinitely.
Cox confirmed Monday that the screenshots tweeted Saturday night by Mbunwe prompted the council's statement. He declined to comment further citing an ongoing investigation.
Cox said in the statement that the council had notified the university's Equal Opportunity Office of the messages for review in light of the university's Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy.
Lambda Chi Alpha's national organization denounced the chapter members' comments in a statement Monday, saying it was "disgusted by the senseless, reprehensible actions and messages of these men."
"We sincerely apologize to everyone disparaged by members of the UGA chapter, particularly those who were identified by name," the statement said.
"On behalf of the leadership and brotherhood of Lambda Chi Alpha, we unequivocally condemn any acts of homophobia, misogyny and racism," the statement said. "These actions are a direct violation of our mission of leading an ethical life of growth, service and leadership. We will neither tolerate nor promulgate such behavior that corrupts the moral fibers of our fraternity."
The national organization also said that it was investigating the issue and coordinating with local authorities and that it "will take all appropriate steps to restore decency, dignity and integrity to our Lambda Chi family."
Mbunwe said that she has not been contacted by the council or Lambda Chi Alpha and that she is dissatisfied with the fraternity's self-suspending its operations.
"That whole move is to remove responsibility from the university," Mbunwe said. "I want the chapter revoked and the members expelled from campus."