The University of Maryland’s Interfraternity Council, which governs more than 20 social fraternities on the campus, announced last week that two members of IFC chapters were involved in the harassment and “trolling” of a speaker at a Black History Month event in February.
On Feb. 24, the IFC and this university’s Panhellenic Association hosted Dr. Stacey Pearson-Wharton — the dean of health and wellness at Susquehanna University — for a discussion on diversity and inclusion. During the event, attendees from the Phi Delta Theta and Alpha Delta Phi fraternities began posting unrelated comments, according to screenshots of the Zoom chat obtained by The Diamondback.
“We were all disgusted and extremely embarrassed, to say at least,” IFC President Mike DiDonato said. “This stuff shouldn’t be happening in our community.”
The council’s response also referenced another incident that occurred in early March, where IFC chapter members said anti-gay slurs toward another community member. The Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life released a letter March 11 addressing the incidents.
Both incidents were reported to the university’s Office of Student Conduct and Bias Incident Support Services, according to information provided by the university.
Some members of the Greek life community have said the council’s response, which came more than one month after the incident took place, was insufficient.
Though the council’s statement references two attendees who posted distracting comments at the Black History Month event, screenshots of the Zoom chat show that at least six people had posted such comments. None of the six people responded to a request for comment.
DiDonato said he was “pretty sure” there were two people involved and said people are “nitpicking” at their statement.
Ava Noorshahi, a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority who attended the event, said she wishes more attendees were held accountable.
“When you’re egging on other people who are … the main people involved, it just goes to show that you probably don’t have the confidence to do the same, but you think it’s funny,” she said. “The whole point is that you still also don’t understand the significance of your actions.”
The Alpha Delta Phi member involved in the incident was placed on probation and the fraternity is planning to host a town hall with the IFC to discuss diversity and inclusion, according to information provided by the university. When reached for comment, this university’s Alpha Delta Phi chapter deferred to its national organization. The national Alpha Delta Phi organization did not respond to request for comment.
Phi Delta Theta sanctioned one member over the incident, said Chris Giuditta, the chapter’s president. The member had used icons to depict male genitalia in the Zoom chat.
Giuditta said the member in question was new to the fraternity and “did not understand at all the importance of the event that he was attending.” The member apologized to Pearson-Wharton and was excluded from all chapter events for a week, Giuditta said. He has also met with one of the chapter’s vice presidents, the sexual assault prevention liaison and the diversity and inclusion chair, Giuditta said.
Pearson-Wharton did not respond to questions about the incident. Giuditta and DiDonato said she was unaware of the situation until those involved issued apologies, but other attendees presumed she had seen the comments.
Phi Delta Theta’s executive board has met with the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion following the incident, Giuditta said. The chapter attended the Black History Month event to fulfill its diversity and inclusion education requirement, but as a result of the incident, the chapter could not use the event to fulfill the requirement, Giuditta said.
Giuditta wrote in a message that he thought it was a stretch to tie the incident to the topic of diversity and inclusion.
Some students opposing the council’s response maintain that the incidents are emblematic of larger problems within Greek life.
Noorshahi pointed to one line in the response that stated “these incredibly disheartening events have opened our eyes to the fact that there is still work to be done within the IFC community” to encourage diversity, equity and inclusion.
“There’s racism, homophobia and all these other issues within Greek life,” Noorshahi said. “So for these to have to happen and be reported for you to actually want to address them is embarrassing.”
DiDonato said that sentence in the statement was “a poor choice of words.”
Meanwhile, Ashley Wells, this university’s Panhellenic Association’s accountability vice president, said she’s “probably never felt so dismayed by another person who’s supposedly in the same community” as her.
Wells added that she understands the critiques of the Greek life community.
“The perceptions people have of us absolutely have merit,” she said.
Kayla Wellage, the diversity and inclusion chair at Delta Phi Epsilon, said she wishes the members involved were removed from their chapters.
“We want to make a change in this system, and that’s not going to happen if we’re just letting people get off the hook with being disrespectful to speakers who are dedicating their time to educate us and improve our culture and environment,” Wellage said.
Despite these concerns, DiDonato stood by the sanctioning decisions.
“None of these issues are going to be solved in a day,” DiDonato said. “It’s a continued effort and it’s a continued conversation that we’re going to keep on having.”