On Saturday night, Bwog received screenshots of messages from the GroupMe of Columbia’s chapter of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI). These messages, part of a conversation taking place on Saturday, depicted a few students making and defending a racist joke regarding the recent Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd. Following backlash from other members within the fraternity, FIJI has “demanded withdrawal of affiliation of certain members,” according to an organization-wide email sent yesterday, and plans to take further action to sustain inclusivity.

The conversation began with one user sending out a meme that described police’s use of tear gas on a Black protestor as “giving out post quarantine nuts” and “one doozy of a facial,” dehumanizing a Black protestor and minimizing police brutality. Several users called the joke out, while another member justified the meme by describing the recent surge of support for BLM as “bullshit” and “inconsistent.”

This meme additionally sexualizes a Black protester after being covered in tear gas. It seems to follow a pattern within the GroupMe, as later messages indicate that members had previously made and laughed at “jokes about sexual assault and so many other fucked up shit.”

In a statement to Bwog, Columbia FIJI’s president, Alexander Gouws ’22, maintained that “the organisation was […] against the comments and in total support of our fraternity brothers of colour.” Indeed, not only were the members involved asked the disaffiliate, but the president also pointed out that FIJI has been planning additional initiatives to maintain inclusivity.

Its leadership is currently in talks with brothers of color on how to best support them. “We are currently running a donation drive to raise awareness and plan to run more initiatives in the future,” the president said. “The action that has already been taken will not be our only action.” The statement highlighted that FIJI itself is not a racist organization: “We weren’t idle and we certainly did not turn a blind eye to the event.”

Regarding the comment about previous jokes about sexual assault among members, the president said he believed it did not have any “genuine reality behind it. I cannot speak for comments made in private […] but whenever the organisation is made aware of things we deem to be inappropriate a hard stance is always taken.”

Echoing many of these same sentiments, leadership also addressed the situation in an email to the chapter yesterday afternoon. The GroupMe messages were described as “insensitive and unacceptable” comments that “fundamentally contradict the core values of this fraternity.” The email again emphasized that guilty members would be asked to disaffiliate and that FIJI would launch a philanthropic event to raise money for the Minnesota Freedom Fund.

The email did not mention other allegations made in the messages, such as the jokes about sexual assault. The full text can be found below.

When Bwog requested comments from the University on the messages, the University instead only pointed to Friday’s statement from Executive Vice President for University Life Suzanne Goldberg, which acknowledged the “recent killings of unarmed African Americans” and the “tremendous pain this violence has caused to many in our own community.”

Our intention, in posting these screenshots without names, was to advance the critical discussion of racism on campus and the idea that systemic racism is a pervasive problem afflicting our University, rather than to malign or pinpoint this as an issue with a few individuals. This is one conversation in one group and not a problem confined to FIJI itself. Bwog condemns the anti-Blackness demonstrated in these messages, at our institution, and throughout the world. Black Lives Matter.

Photo via Bwog Archives