IFC President Faces Criticism for Insensitive Tweets

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Interfraternity Council President Chip Ray is under scrutiny for insensitive Tweets sent from his Twitter account in October when he was the Vice President of the IFC.

Onward State learned of the Tweets three weeks ago, but Ray had deleted the Tweets in question by that time so we were unable to obtain screenshots or confirm the Tweets were sent. The Daily Collegian published the exact text from two Tweets this morning, which are shown below:

Sent Oct. 4, 2012: “you need to start thinking of her as more of a hole and less like a human.”

Sent Oct. 24, 2012: “@FillWerrell: How many Mexicans does it take to build a… oh shit, they’re done.”

Ray’s Twitter account, @chipray16, was made private on January 7 when word began to circulate that The Daily Collegian was working on a story in relation to the Tweets. The account was then deleted on January 8, although it has since been reactivated with all previous Tweets deleted.

Ray told Onward State that he did not remember sending the Tweets in question, but he did remember a friend uttering the admittedly abhorrent quote about women. Ray also admitted that the Tweets were inappropriate, despite being sent before he became IFC President.

Ray acknowledged that his leadership roles as IFC Vice President and President demands a greater responsibility and better conduct on Twitter and that he regrets that the Tweets were sent.

In lieu of being quoted on the record, Ray endorsed the following statement by IFC Vice President for Communications Jordan Rolon, issued to Onward State last week in response to the Tweets in question:

“The Interfraternity Council and the Executive Board has been made aware of several “tweets” posted by the current IFC President, Chip Ray, on his personal Twitter account that have been characterized as being insensitive to various cultures. The Interfraternity Council recognizes these actions were inappropriate and are not conducive of the actions or behaviors that we should expect of a fraternity member. We realize, therefore, that appreciation of and for diversity must be a major concern of the entire Penn State fraternity and sorority community.

“After significant discussion, the IFC executive board has unanimously determined that while the IFC President understands and appreciates that his Twitter posts were inappropriate, we do realize that student insensitivity is much too common at Penn State and we, as an executive board and community, need to do all we can to educate our members on diversity and the understanding of how comments, like the ones that were made, could be offensive. We understand that we all must think before we speak so we do not offend others.

“The IFC executive board, including the current IFC President, sincerely apologizes for the insensitivity displayed through the Twitter posts. We further understand that we cannot change what has already occurred, but we stand committed and dedicated to work with various student organizations and University offices to educate our members on the diversity, tolerance, and sensitivity in order to make our members more socially aware of the world in which we live.

“The Pennsylvania State University is a world-class institution comprised of people that believe in different religions, have ancestors that come from various countries, and are from different backgrounds. These are topics that need to be discussed openly so we all can learn to see life from another person’s point-of-view and thus, defeating ignorance, and for these reasons we, as a fraternity community, plan to become leaders on campus in diversity education.

“If your organization is interested in working with the Interfraternity Council to promote a better understanding of diversity on our campus we would love to hear from you. Please contact [email protected] so we can work together to bring our University a step closer to being the premier institution of diversity awareness and education.”

This unfortunate story serves as yet another example of how easily social media can be a powerful force. College students especially have been guilty for failing to understand the gravity of content that is posted to social media accounts and the effect their words can have on themselves and the organizations they represent. Since the start of the fall semester, there have been many unfortunate situations in which athletes visiting Penn State, organizations, and now a student in the Penn State community have not been cautious when broadcasting messages on their social media accounts.

While these types of incidents are certainly not limited to the aforementioned cases highlighted by the media, they are occurring with disturbing frequency. Hopefully incidents like this will serve as a point of caution so that no more groups or individuals will be hurt by insensitivity on social media. While Penn State has made some great strides in the area of diversity, a student leader — and in this case, a member of the newly formed UPUA Diversity task force — failing to realize the impact of his or her words only hinders that crucial message from reaching the rest of the world.

Indeed, members of Greek Life at Penn State and hordes of other passionate students have done amazing work with diversity awareness on this campus, particularly in recent months. We know that that great work will continue despite the detestable nature of these words.

No representative from the Penn State Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life could be reached after multiple requests for comment. Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims told the Collegian that the university will likely not discipline Ray because he was practicing his right to engage in free speech.

“I certainly acknowledge the rights of those involved, including the IFC, in this particular matter, but I am deeply disappointed that this kind of insensitivity has occurred,” Sims said.

Madeline Chandler, a member of the Penn State Women’s Studies Honor Society known as Triota, has serious concerns about the IFC leadership going forward.

“As a non-participant in Greek Life at Penn State, I would love to be able to say they do great things. And I know that they do a lot of incredible philanthropic work and that being a member can be incredibly beneficial after graduation. I can understand why people would join,” Chandler said. “But, as an influential part of our student community, they do have a responsibility to make mature decisions as adults.

“I don’t want Greek Life to be known for marginalizing minorities, but if prominent members of their community continue to abuse social media and give them a bad name, sadly that will become the norm. I’m disappointed in the sexist comments made by the IFC President and I hope next time he thinks before he Tweets. The community does a lot of good and should be known for that, not for the degrading comments they make.”

Sloane Shearman, a member of Penn State For All Students Equality (PSU-FASE), says that this type of conduct is so prevalent in society today that it no longer surprises her.

“What most upsets me, what most enrages me, about the words and actions of Chip Ray, the sisters of Chi Omega, and many others in the Penn State community in the recent past, is my lack of upset and outrage. It saddens me that these things come to me with so little surprise, and are so pervasive within our society that some cannot see them as problems at all,” Shearman said, “I want to be clear that there are no good people and no bad people, only our actions and their consequences. Each individual is both a product and a perpetuator of culture.

“As Americans, as Penn State students, we are in a position of power unknown to most. We have learned from history, both recent and distant, that all systems of oppression manifest in the same ways: of which the dehumanization of their victims is primary. While Mr. Ray’s comments were deeply hurtful, it is that they were coming from a student leader to whom I might turn for aid in addressing the omnipresent problem of sexual assault on this campus that leaves me with this feeling of resignation. If there is any hope left to be found, it is to be found within ourselves upon the consideration of two truths: we hate what we fear, and we fear what we do not understand.”

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Dave is a senior at Penn State studying political science and photojournalism. Dave is also an avid TED'ster doing Design for TEDxPSU 2013. Additionally, Dave is a council member on the Penn State Student Sustainability Advisory Council for the 2011-'12 academic years.

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