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Student newspaper banned from student government forum for black students

‘I wonder if they sell slaves’ caption on Snapchat photo from ‘plantation gift shop’

Safe spaces trump freedom of the press at George Washington University.

The Student Association’s diversity and inclusion assembly banned The GW Hatchet from covering a “black student community forum,” the private university’s student newspaper reports.

The assembly hosted the forum in the wake of a photo taken at a “plantation gift shop” by the now-ex president of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority.

It was intended to “allow students to voice their opinions about the incident,” the Hatchet said, citing an unidentified “SA graphic shared on social media”:

An attendee at the forum, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said between 50 and 75 people were present. SA President SJ Matthews, SA Executive Vice President Amy Martin, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Cissy Petty and University President Thomas LeBlanc did not attend, the attendee said.

The attendee added that students expressed a lot of anger about the incident during the forum, and the event allowed students to reflect on the incident in a safe space. …

Sorority President Allison Janega resigned her post and disaffiliated from the sorority in the wake of outrage. She had written the caption “I wonder if they sell slaves” on a Snapchat photo from a plantation gift shop.

It’s not clear when the photo was shared; the Hatchet reported last week that it had obtained a screenshot but did not give a date. GWU President Thomas LeBlanc said the university learned about the photo Sept. 4, and that the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement was working with students to “gather information and determine the most appropriate steps forward.”

The College Fix has asked the university to specify those steps, particularly whether they include a disciplinary investigation related to the Snapchat photo and whether its sharing violated any campus policy. The Fix has also asked the Student Association to specify who was allowed to attend the black student forum and why it blocked the Hatchet from covering it.

MOREGWU might punish Alpha Phi for a banana peel

Janega’s photo was widely condemned across the community, including from Greek life. SA President SJ Matthews and Executive Vice President Amy Martin claimed the post represented “acts of intolerance” and violated GWU “values of diversity and inclusion.”

They flatly said its language was “racist,” rather than recognizing the more reasonable explanation: Janega made an off-color joke based on the setting of the photo.

They also claimed the photo is “not an isolated incident,” alluding to a widely distorted incident from last year involving a Snapchat photo of two sorority sisters where one is holding a banana peel. The Hatchet is still falsely implying that the two Alpha Phi sisters were responsible for the photo, when in fact someone else put the “Izzy: ‘I’m 1/16 black” on the photo.

In response, the university added new harassment provisions to various policies and imposed a bias reporting system that lets students anonymously report each other for “unwelcome conduct.”

The administration banned sororities from holding “social events or participating in informal fall recruitment” in the wake of the photo, the Hatchet previously reported. In a decision that involved President LeBlanc, sororities will also be forced to participate in “structured educational programming and training” around “leadership, values and diversity.”

Read the latest report.

MORE: GWU rolls over to mob demands in response to banana-peel photo

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.