ODU’s Greek com­mu­nity un­der re­view af­ter al­le­ga­tions of racism

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Local News - By Kather­ine Hafner Staff writer

NOR­FOLK — Say­ing that he was “re­pulsed” by al­leged racist be­hav­ior at a soror­ity, Old Do­min­ion Univer­sity Pres­i­dent John Brod­er­ick an­nounced Fri­day that the school would re­view the en­tire Greek com­mu­nity.

“These un­ac­cept­able ac­tions sharply con­tra­dict Old Do­min­ion’s val­ues of in­clu­sion, di­ver­sity and re­spect for the dig­nity of oth­ers,” Brod­er­ick wrote in an open letter. “Racist be­hav­ior goes against ev­ery­thing for which the Monarch com­mu­nity stands.”

He was re­fer­ring to re­cent al­le­ga­tions that soror­ity mem­bers at ODU’s Al­pha Phi chap­ter had used racist lan­guage on­line in the past and be­lit­tled a black mem­ber. The na­tional Al­pha Phi or­ga­ni­za­tion has or­dered the chap­ter to “cease its ac­tiv­i­ties,” a univer­sity spokes­woman told The Vir­gini­anPilot last week.

Tweets from a for­mer ODU stu­dent prompted the sit­u­a­tion, show­ing a photo in which an award for “black­est white you’ll ever meet” was given to a white stu­dent dur­ing a 2016 soror­ity event. In an­other, a re-tweet ap­pears to show a white soror­ity mem­ber us­ing the “n” word on Twit­ter. The tweets were later deleted.

Mem­bers of the chap­ter and na­tional Al­pha Phi did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment at the time.

On Fri­day, Brod­er­ick’s letter said the univer­sity’s vice pres­i­dent, Ellen Neufeldt, will be “over­see­ing an ex­ter­nal re­view of the ODU fra­ter­nity and soror­ity com­mu­nity.”

“En­sur­ing ODU is in­clu­sive for all ne­ces­si­tates ac­knowl­edg­ing our im­per­fec­tions and ad­dress­ing them head on,” Brod­er­ick wrote.

On Wed­nes­day, the stu­dent body can at­tend a fo­rum called “Jus­tice,” which will be held on cam­pus from 7:30-9 p.m. There will be a panel of stu­dent lead­ers and mem­bers of the ad­min­is­tra­tion to dis­cuss race-re­lated is­sues and an­swer ques­tions from the au­di­ence.

“Hon­estly, I just wanted to have the fo­rum be­cause this isn’t the first in­ci­dent that ODU has had,” said ODU ju­nior Tay­lor Clark, who helped to or­ga­nize the fo­rum.

Clark said she met with mem­bers of the school’s ad­min­is­tra­tion Mon­day. She was joined by Mar­quise Hunt, who’s from Hamp­ton Roads and sits on the na­tional youth com­mit­tee of the NAACP.

Hunt said he hopes the fo­rum gives stu­dents the chance to come for­ward with any con­cerns they have. That way, the ad­min­is­tra­tion can cre­ate poli­cies to pre­vent some­thing like this in­ci­dent from hap­pen­ing again.

Clark said she would like to see the school have an anony­mous mes­sag­ing sys­tem for stu­dents, and mem­bers of the Greek com­mu­nity, to come for­ward if they’ve been bul­lied or ex­pe­ri­enced racism in any way.

“I do ex­pect change to oc­cur,” Clark said.

Brod­er­ick’s letter and the Al­pha Phi sit­u­a­tion will also be the topic of a stu­dent-run ra­dio show.

Alexis Daw­son, a sopho­more study­ing mass com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Old Do­min­ion Univer­sity, plans to talk about it next Tues­day on the show she co-hosts called “Tea Ta­ble.”

Daw­son, who’s not in a soror­ity, said she con­sid­ers Brod­er­ick’s letter and other steps the univer­sity is tak­ing as moves in the right di­rec­tion.

“Be­ing a soror­ity mem­ber is more like a priv­i­lege,” Daw­son said. “You’re sup­posed to rep­re­sent the com­mu­nity and if you’re be­ing racist, that’s not how I want the school I go to to be rep­re­sented.”

Brod­er­ick wrote that ODU of­fi­cials plan to hold “ed­u­ca­tional cam­pus con­ver­sa­tions” part­ner­ing with stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions this spring to dis­cuss “racist man­i­fes­ta­tions of bias, big­otry and bul­ly­ing,” the data from which will in­form next steps. Staff writer Gor­don Rago con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Kather­ine Hafner, 757-222-5208, kather­[email protected]­lo­ton­line.com

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