Fraternity Suspended After Racist Messages Leaked Amid Nationwide Anti-Racist Protests

Lambda Phi Epsilon has been suspended after screenshots of several members' messages in a private group chat were shared on Twitter.

The office of Fraternity and Sorority Life located at the Center for Student Life at NYU. (Staff Photo via Darcey Pittman).

The NYU chapter of the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity has been suspended indefinitely by both the University and the national fraternity after racist GroupMe messages concerning the public outrage in Minnesota were leaked on Twitter. 

The suspension comes as nationwide protests continue for the fourth day after a police officer killed George Floyd in Minnesota by kneeling on his neck for over seven minutes. Recordings of the incident show that Floyd was crying out that he couldn’t breathe. The chapter members appeared to be speaking about the protests following Floyd’s death in the leaked messages.  

“As fucked up as it is, I think the threat of police brutality actually keeps those communities more safe than without it,” one member of the chat, Stern student Roger Sun, wrote. He later asked nobody to screenshot the messages, writing that his life would be ruined. Fellow Stern student Jun Cha chimed in that “Black people also don’t recognize that they kill each other the most for some reason.” 

Another fraternity member compared the plight of the African American community to the Asian American community.

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“I disagree a little, being an indentured servant and being a slave is different,” Justin Tung wrote in the chat. “But the principle is the same, we grinded significantly harder while black peoples were lazy.”

The screenshots of these messages were originally posted by @dawnofsaints on Twitter and have since gone viral, netting over 8,000 likes and over 4,000 retweets. Additional screen grabs were added to the thread by @marquis_liz, although the images posted online only reveal brief conversations. WSN has not received a full transcript of all the messages in the chat at this time, other than what was posted publicly.

Prior to NYU’s decision to suspend the fraternity, the national Lambda Phi Epsilon organization, a self-described Asian-interest fraternity, put out a statement condemning the chapter’s action. 

“The mission of Lambda Phi Epsilon is to guide men on a lifelong discovery of authenticity and personal growth and the International Fraternity is committed to helping its members live positive, healthy, and responsible lives,” the press statement reads. “Racism has no place in that pursuit.” 

University Spokesperson John Beckman also said in a statement to WSN that the messages are not in line with NYU’s community values.

“The sentiments expressed in these posts are abhorrent, at odds with our community’s values, and counter to the inclusive community we seek to create for everyone at NYU,” the statement read. 

Beckman stated that the situation is currently being investigated by the Office of Student Conduct and suggested students utilize resources like the Bias Response Line.

For some students, reporting to the Bias Response Line isn’t enough when it comes to racist experiences on campus.

“Many black students have experiences where you submit things to the bias response line, like in terms of my professors and students making inappropriate comments and it just never gets minded, it’s just like it gets thrown in the garbage,” a rising junior and Black student in CAS Mathew Asare told WSN. 

Asare voiced concerns over the contradiction between NYU’s marketing and the on-campus experience for Black students. 

“We’re at a university that likes to tout a 33% increase this year and a 50% increase that year in the black population at this school but they’re not doing anything to care of Black mental health.”

SGA president Raj Kittusamy told WSN that the student government will be reaching out to groups including the Black Student Union and Multicultural Greek Council in order to form an official response. Kittusamy said that students can voice their requests for NYU to better support black students communities by emailing [email protected]

In the meantime, SGA released a statement addressing both the protests and the leaked messages. The statement emphasized that in this difficult time for the Black community, the association will help to share and support Black voices. A list of actions students can take is also provided at the end of SGA’s statement.

“It is our belief that such protests, including recent violence, are the result of years of failure on behalf of the state to protect the bodies of Black people in the face of racist policing and widespread discrimination,” the statement read. “As the elected body that represents the interests of NYU students, we will hold ourselves accountable to do just that.”

The statement went on to condemn the content of fraternity members messages. 

“The revelations this morning regarding members of NYU’s Lambda Phi Epsilon chapter are deeply distressing and disturbing,” the statement continued. “The words and beliefs exhibited in these members’ leaked messages are entirely antithetical to the values of this institution and are yet another reminder of the pervasive prejudice and racism both within college campuses and amongst our larger community.” 

Roger Sun posted an apology at around 11:30 a.m. to the Facebook group “subtle asian greeks” a private Facebook group of over 17,000 members. While acknowledging that he won’t be immediately forgiven, Sun admitted his ignorance on the issues he commented on in private. Sun did not respond to requests for comment from WSN.

“Although it was not my intention to support and condone police brutality, my intentions do not matter,” Sun’s post read. “The fact of the matter is that my texts, whether intentional or not, demonstrated a misconstrued viewpoint that is deep rooted in my privilege and ignorance for the black community.” 

Alison De Leon, a Black junior in CAS, doesn’t believe these apologies are enough. She suggested the possibility of diversity training or suspension from housing as possible reprimands for their actions. 

“I think for me personally, it’s the fact that these are people that you may encounter in your classroom, people you may work in group project with, these people might be your floor mates, might be people you bumped into at the dining halls, and you never really know [their true beliefs],” De Leon said.

David Gonzalez, an assistant director of the Center for Student Life who oversees Fraternity and Sorority life on campus, did not respond to WSN’s multiple requests for comment.

Email Matthew Fischetti at [email protected]

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I’m confused, other than the fact that each of these students were fraternity members, what does this have to do with the fraternity?
    Is the school punishing any of the students?

  2. Copenhagen, Speech, and Violence
    The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/copenhagen-speech-violence

    “Researching my book, I looked into what actually happened in the Weimar Republic. I found that, contrary to what most people think, Weimar Germany did have hate-speech laws, and they were applied quite frequently. The assertion that Nazi propaganda played a significant role in mobilizing anti-Jewish sentiment is, of course, irrefutable. But to claim that the Holocaust could have been prevented if only anti-Semitic speech and Nazi propaganda had been banned has little basis in reality. Leading Nazis such as Joseph Goebbels, Theodor Fritsch, and Julius Streicher were all prosecuted for anti-Semitic speech. Streicher served two prison sentences. Rather than deterring the Nazis and countering anti-Semitism, the many court cases served as effective public-relations machinery, affording Streicher the kind of attention he would never have found in a climate of a free and open debate. In the years from 1923 to 1933, Der Stürmer [Streicher’s newspaper] was either confiscated or editors taken to court on no fewer than thirty-six occasions. The more charges Streicher faced, the greater became the admiration of his supporters. The courts became an important platform for Streicher’s campaign against the Jews. In the words of a present-day civil-rights campaigner, pre-Hitler Germany had laws very much like the anti-hate laws of today, and they were enforced with some vigor. As history so painfully testifies, this type of legislation proved ineffectual on the one occasion when there was a real argument for it.”

    “I have yet to be presented with evidence for the proposition that hate-speech laws are an effective instrument to prevent violence. Seen from Europe, the history of free speech in the U.S. undermines those who insist on a causal link between legalization of hate speech, on the one hand, and racist violence and killings, on the other. Throughout the twentieth century, the U.S. witnessed a gradual relaxation of restrictions on speech; nonetheless, today racism and racial discrimination is less of a problem than it was a hundred years ago.”

  3. I’m an NYU alum. I gotta tell you, if we keep this idiocy up, by which I mean punishing and “canceling” people for wrongthink or for having an unappealing yet still ordinary conversation, the attempt to repress ideas in America will explode in a civil war (we will not become Sweden). The authoritarians will lose. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Leave these students alone.

    • Excuse me – leave them alone?? At least part of the University’s mission is to teach the students. This is one such teachable moment. We can debate the extent to which the punishment was appropriate, but to suggest that the punishment was redundant is simply idiotic.

    • On which grounds? These students were engaging in civil discourse on a private forum absent from the University.

      Does that not violate the core mission of a civil society and this university to free inquiry, free expression, and free association. I am not condoning the words used by the students in question, but denying individuals with unpopular opinions opportunities to grow will only lead to greater divides.

      The main purpose of universities are to educate and socialize individuals of a society, regardless of their backgrounds or established belief, misguided or not. Would you deny students the right to an education based on other held beliefs such as religion or political party affiliation?

      Should you wish harm on another student because of their undeveloped belief/understandings conflict with yours? If individuals with unpopular beliefs are not given the same opportunities to learn, then how can their beliefs ever change? No one is ever born with a set of beliefs, so every social institution has the ability to regress/progress with every new generation that emerges. The only way all social progress is not lost is to have equal access to education regardless of where individuals start ideologically.

      As well, Title 4 of the NYU Student Code of Conduct state that “The University shall not use its powers to interfere with the rights of a student beyond the University environment. Conduct that occurs off-campus, online, over social media, or outside the context of a University program or activity, should generally be subject only to the consequences of public authority and/or opinion.” This clause of course excludes offenses that seriously threaten the safety and security of the University community. There are no details presented that constitute an active threat made by these students targeting the university community or any of its specific constituents.

      Reprimand these students yes, to fullest extent, but do not exclude them and push the envelope of tribalism further.

  4. Lmao @ the University that literally used slave labor as recently as 2010 to build a satellite campus in the Middle East punishing college kids for making racist comments in a private group chat

  5. WTF did they say that ISN’T TRUE? Jesus Christ. you can’t even general facts these days without getting “cancelled”. everyone has to walk on eggshells when it comes to blacks meanwhile blacks say and do whatever they want to other races.

    • For the record, none of what you typed in this comment contained the slightest trace of truth. Nor decency. Nor respect.

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