The Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Committee released a statement regarding the use of a racial slur in a video on social media by a Seton Hall student earlier this month.
The statement comes weeks after the controversy began.
In the video, two girls are shown, one standing slightly to the right of the frame with her face out of view. Then, the girls proceed to use the popular Instagram story filter, which determines what Disney character the person using the filter would be. The filter stops on the Disney character, Mulan, a Chinese warrior, and a derogatory word used to refer Chinese people is heard in response to the image. The girl to the right of the video appears to be the one saying the word.
On Jan. 5, in response to the video, SGA President Rishi Shah tweeted, “What we’re not gonna do in 2020 is let this behavior slide. @SetonHall.”
The student who posted the video was identified as a member of Seton Hall’s Eta Eta chapter of the Alpha Phi sorority.
The tweet spread quickly, gathering hundreds of likes and several retweets.
Seton Hall’s official twitter account responded, tweeting, “Thank you for tagging us. Seton Hall is committed to fostering a community of racial understanding, inclusion and dignity for all our members. We have shared these messages, and the University is investigating.”
Alpha Phi International also tweeted that they are aware of the situation and will investigate further.
At an SGA meeting on Jan. 27, Shah defended his response to the video, which has since been deleted.
“I understand that it reflects on SGA as a whole if I post something on my account,” Shah said. “Although my statements were personal and I do stand by them, I did have a discussion with our Executive Committee and we’ve decided to put out a statement just reflecting on this incident and where we stand against blatant acts of racism.”
Shah then read the official statement on the matter made by SGA’s executive committee.
“The SGA executive committee retains the values of respect and inclusion in the Seton Hall Community,” the letter said. “This incident was not only hurtful, but also normalizes racist behavior.”
The letter further defended Shah’s tweet, and reiterated the values of the current SGA administration.
“The purpose of sharing the video was not to target, bully, or victimize the student or any related parties, but rather to bring light onto the video,” it said. “It is the priority of this administration to take a stance against acts of hate and intolerance as it has been and will continue to be.”
Shah, as SGA President and a member of the Executive Committee, said the letter was meant to demonstrate the committee’s values and explain why Shah posted his response.
“We wanted to reaffirm our stances against acts of racism and intolerance to the Seton Hall community,” Shah said. “It became apparent when we realized there was some miscommunication on our stance as an organization and the intentions of posting the video.”
Senator Saadet Ceynek said that the Executive Committee’s statement was necessary.
“SGA is supposed to be an in-between for faculty and students,” Ceynek said. “Because this was a student incident that the school’s name was mentioned in, [Student Government] should put out a statement in order to show we acknowledge the situation.”
Nicole Stephens, president of the Seton Hall chapter of Alpha Phi, refused to comment on the SGA Executive Committee’s statement. She also refused to comment on whether the student who posted the slur will remain a member of the sorority.
However, Stephens said in a previous email to The Setonian, “The actions of one person do not reflect an entire organization. We as an organization, have never and will never support the use of racist or derogatory language. We hold our members to high standards, which includes respecting and accepting all individuals.”
Laurie Pine, director of media relations at Seton Hall, previously sent a statement to The Setonian regarding the video: “Seton Hall University is committed to providing a safe learning, living and working environment for our students to grow and flourish. Seton Hall takes complaints of this nature very seriously and is currently conducting a thorough investigation.”
The student who appears to use the slur in the video has denied doing so.
Daniel O’Connor can be reached at email@example.com.