BY ZSHEKINAH COLLIER
In early January, social media platforms flooded with WW3 memes in response to the heightened tension between Iran and the United States after the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
While memes with hashtags like #WW3 trended, members of Sigma Alpha Mu-Delta Beta Chapter at American University, also known as Sammy, created a private Facebook event for a WW3 themed party. The event was named "Draft Dodgers Darty!" and the location was Tehran, Iran.
The Iranian Student Association at AU (ISA-AU) became aware of the event after screenshots were posted on their Facebook group page by a member of ISA-AU. They released a statement stating "We are deeply saddened by events that ridicule a situation that directly impacts our families and friends. We have reached out to AU administration and are awaiting a response."
Sigma Alpha Mu- Delta Beta deleted the event after the statement was released and asked for a meeting between the organizations.
Initially, ISA-AU wanted the University to deal with the issue. But after Vice President of Campus Life, Dr. Fanta Aw, and Primary Advisor for Interfraternity Council (IFC), Travis Roberts, suggested a mediated discussion with the fraternity in an email on Jan. 23, ISA-AU thought otherwise. As a collective, the Iranian Student Association decided to turn down AU's offer and met with Sigma Alpha Mu- Delta Beta without the University. Omeed Ansari, ISA- AU president, expressed that he along with other members and Iranian students on campus were disappointed by AU's response.
The ISA-AU saw this issue as a potential learning experience not only for Sigma Alpha Mu- Delta Beta but the AU Community as a whole. Ansari said, "people need to be educated because you have people who were invited, who said they were going, who didn't think this was bad, didn't think this is insensitive they didn't see anything wrong with this."
He continued by saying, " We're not trying to call anyone out or put them on public display, that's not what we're doing. We just wanted to talk and tell them that this isn't right."
There is a history of students, faculty, and staff saying and engaging in insensitive comments or actions that affect marginalized communities on campus. When will enough be enough, and accountability be the end result instead of apologies and discussions that lack sincerity?
In Jan. 2018 American University launched a plan for Inclusive Excellence. The plan is under the theme of community in AU's Five-Year Strategic Plan titled "Changemakers for a Changing World. The Inclusive Excellence Plan has five focus areas with three of them being "Implement Training, Learning, and Development; Improve Campus Climate, Culture, and Sense of Community; and Implement Systems, Policies, and Procedures." The goal is to see improvements regarding all areas of the plan in 2023.
How will American University reach our goal in 2023 if the university is not holding people and organizations accountable in 2020?
Students will not feel included in this community if the administration continues to show that they don't truly care about the well being of those with marginalized identities. Instead of being reactive and suggesting mediated discussions, we need an administration that is proactive and will consistently stand up for ALL members of their community.
Based on the meeting between ISA-AU and Sigma Alpha Mu-Delta Beta on Feb.3, the fraternity apologized, took responsibility and acknowledged their wrongdoing. Reportedly, the Sammy brother that created the Facebook event was expelled from the fraternity.
Many Iranian students and the ISA-AU Executive Board felt the news and memes played a role and made it easy for the fraternity to think the event was ok.
"We aren't a political group and we try to make ourselves more like a cultural group, we just want to let people know that Iran is more than it's government," Ansari said.
The Blackprint reached out to Sigma Alpha Mu- Delta Beta Chapter and Travis Roberts for comment, but have not received a response.