A Vanderbilt student was heard on a widely circulated Instagram video (The link no longer works as the user is now a private user), posted July 3, using the “n-word” twice; the student using the racial slur was not visible on the video.
Students in the video have been identified as part of the Gamma chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and the Alpha Eta chapter of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. The video was taken March 2, over spring break in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
One of the students in the video, rising sophomore Julia Amato, sent The Hustler the following statement.
“That video was atrocious, and I am upset that I am in it. I hope people notice that I am not near the person saying the abhorrent language nor acting in a way that suggests I agree with the use of those words. I do not at all. I am in a completely different conversation across the pool, unaware of what is being said behind the camera. Anybody who knows me would understand that I would not involve myself in such behavior, which goes completely against my values. I hope the video helps Vanderbilt and Greek Life talk about these issues more constructively,” the statement reads.
The other female Vanderbilt student from the video’s attorney gave the following statement.
“She did not hear what [the male student] was saying and she finds it abhorrent that this male ‘Deke’ student filmed her and spoke those words,” her attorney wrote in an email to The Hustler. “The racial slur was 100% the misconduct of the person who filmed her from across the pool.”
The male Vanderbilt student heard in the video using the racial slur did not respond to request for comment.
Kappa Alpha Theta President Eliza Parker did not respond to request for comment. Delta Kappa Epsilon’s former president Joseph Strelitz declined to comment.
The Advisory Board Chair of the Alpha Eta chapter of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sent an email July 8 to its members confirming that the women in the video are still members of the sorority as of July 8; The Hustler later obtained this email. The women in the video, however, didn’t receive the email.
“Because we skipped over a few of the steps required to remove a member from the Chapter, their membership is still valid, until we take the appropriate steps. This allows each woman in question to have the opportunity to appeal any decision that is made,” the July 8 email states.
The email also requested that sorority members cease all internal and external discussion of the situation.
“In the unlikely event you are contacted by the media (by that I mean The Tennessean, The Hustler, any other paper or student publication, any TV station, any radio station, any podcast, any blogger, etc.) or an attorney for comment on the topics noted above, do NOT tell them anything,” the email from the Advisory Board Chair states. “Do not even talk to your fellow Alpha Etas about this. The confidentiality is meant to protect the women who allegedly committed behavior unbecoming to a Theta as well as protect all members of the Chapter from outside influences. PLEASE! Zip your lips on these topics!”
After receiving multiple reports regarding the incident, Dean of Students Mark Bandas said that the Title IX and Student Discrimination office have been notified and are actively investigating, per a July 3 email sent to Vanderbilt students.
“Vanderbilt is committed to fostering a safe and welcoming community for all. We do not tolerate racism nor racist language and behavior. We recognize the pain and anguish this word causes for African American members of our community. The word used by the student is one that has been employed for over a century to belittle and mock African Americans, and should never be uttered, period,” the email states.
Director of Greek Life Kristin Torrey declined to comment.
Vanderbilt’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) addressed the video within a July 7 letter to the Vanderbilt community, posted on their Instagram page. In that letter, the NAACP called for the absolute abolition of Greek organizations within the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and the Panhellenic Council.
The Instagram video was posted by rising senior Taylor Thompson. In a message to The Hustler, Thompson said that she felt obligated to post the video.
“If the video had reached me, then it had reached other people and in [turn] harmed others,” Thompson said.
Thompson said that she hopes the Vanderbilt community will stop prioritizing social life over the emotional safety and well-being of its peers.
“This [behavior] exists in Greek life and whether you’re the one doing or saying it, we’re all responsible for allowing a space where people feel comfortable enough to engage in that behavior,” Thompson said.