Two Instagram Earthquakes Rock AU
Letter from the Editor: this article contains detailed accounts of sexual and racial abuse, and may be triggering to readers.
Throughout the course of the last week, two Instagram pages have sent shockwaves through the AU student body.
Amidst the movement against police brutality and institutional racism, the Instagram account @blackatamericanuniversity has posted over 186 stories of racist on-campus treatment since its inception on June 20. The account describes incidents of racist treatment of AU employees, blatant profiling and exclusion of Black students by their fellow peers as well as on-campus organizations—especially but not limited to sororities and sports teams. A vast number of the page’s stories involve dating, friendships, and social life. Many of these incidents of bias occurred in the dorm halls, at parties, and in the classroom involving both teacher assistants and professors (including Professors Frank Rangoussis, Kimberlee Hollande, and Saul Newman). Stories have been submitted by both students and alumni, all anonymously.
This campus is hardly a stranger to this sort of disillusionment. Most students entered their first year at AU fully aware that bananas were hung from nooses just months before, targeting the Black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha and former AUSG president Taylor Dumpson, resulting in both school and federal investigations that went nowhere. Merely a year later, cotton balls and confederate flags were found nailed to a bulletin board in MGC, the only evidence of its posting being an indistinguishable security video of several men in traffic jackets walking down the halls of the building late at night. The same year, Confederate flag flyers were found hanging from buildings around campus on the night of Professor Ibram X. Kendi’s presentation on AU’s then-new Antiracist Research Center.
The page was meant to highlight what it means to be a Black student attending AU. Its stories encompass all aspects of college life, including instances of sexual assault.
Another page, @exposingauabusers, which immediately generated attention through a frequent posting schedule and raw, unfiltered first-person tales of abuse, several of which mentioned the alleged perpetrators by name. Since its inception just five days ago, the account has published over 170 different posts—all stories of abuse, rape, and harassment told by victims. Multiple fraternities, both professional and social, were painted as complicit in regards to disciplinary action for members accused of sexual abuse. Much of the attention paid to @exposingauabusers also drifted toward @blackatamericanuniversity, which had put up its first post over a month earlier.
According to several sources, the administrators of both pages have received cease-and-desist letters over the past couple days. At around 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the page put up an announcement that it would be taking a brief hiatus from posting “due to obsessive threats of legal action from anonymous and non-anonymous accounts.” The appearance of legal threats began as occasional, the post continued, but soon became “over 100 anonymous, copy and pasted threats to our submissions which is meant for survivors.” The post encouraged similar accounts to continue posting.
While frequent on-campus racial incidents and unsatisfactory Title IX processes have incited student criticism and demands for reform in the past, it is clear students believed that not enough is being done, and that the culture that protects racist ideologies and perpetrators of sexual assault must be approached through a more radical and disruptive means.
In their short lifespans, @exposingauabusers and @blackatamericanuniversity have publicly named a multitude of perpetrators. One of them is Jubilee Witte, a student who was featured in at least three different stories that paint him as a creepy, disturbed fetishizer of Black women and African culture. On a professional profile, he listed that he was the beneficiary of a Fulbright Fellowship Award to study Yoruba and contemporary West African culture. The latest update as of the first drafting of this article is that several members of the AU community have reported him to the Fulbright Association and to the AU Office of Merit Awards in an effort to have this scholarship rescinded.
Delta Chi, Sigma Chi, Zeta Beta Tau, Pi Kappa Alpha, Beta Theta Pi, Alpha Sigma Phi, Sigma Alpha Mu, Sigma Phi Epsilon, and Zeta Psi have all been named in posts alleging sexual abuse. Just yesterday, a post went up describing an assault at a PIKE Christmas Party—the victim was subjected to forced sexual activity and managed to escape with the help of friends. “He said he was friends with every sorority on campus and I would be Blacklisted in the spring when I rushed if I talked shit,” the post reads. “I found out later he was on eboard and was running another big org on campus.”
In a post on @blackatamericanuniversity, one Black student wrote of the racist culture to which he was subjected while joining Alpha Sigma Phi. He recounts having to participate in a Civil War-themed party laced with racial epithets, in which the brothers were split up between two teams and fought each other while drinking.
Several Greek organizations have met or plan to meet about responses to posts by both groups. Most of already spoken out condemning acts of sexual abuse by members. The professional law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta released a statement that promised mandatory “sensitivity training” and consent training for new and current members come Fall. The statement also called for changing the Student Code of Conduct to make bias-related incidents explicit grounds for expulsion.