Shivers discusses path forward after racist ideology in sorority Instagram comment

Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers said offensive language is “not part of who we are” at the UI and in the greek community in an interview with The Daily Iowan after a Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority member posted a comment on Instagram that contained racist ideology.


Katie Goodale

Vice President of Student Life Melissa Shivers sits down for an interview with the Daily Iowan on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019.

Brooklyn Draisey, Managing Editor

University of Iowa Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers on Tuesday told The Daily Iowan that language containing racist ideology is “not part of who we are” at the UI and in the Fraternity/Sorority Life community after a sorority member made a comment on Instagram including such language.

“We were disappointed in the engagement or the comment that was made on the social-media post, and I feel strongly that the [Fraternity/Sorority Life] community has been very vocal in terms of their concerns and displeasure with that as well,” she said.

A Kappa Kappa Gamma member recently posted “join the kkk” in a comment on an Instagram photo of the sorority’s members wearing white dresses. She then posted “I mean the kkg.” Both the Beta Zeta chapter of the sorority and the UI Panhellenic Council released statements condemning the posts and vowing to take action.

Shivers said in an interview with the DI that there was a report submitted to the UI Office of Student Accountability but cannot say whether there will be disciplinary action taken. 

“We have high expectations of what engagement on our campus looks like and certainly will do our best to try and make sure that we are instilling the best practices and certainly providing the appropriate training, knowledge, and skills for our community to feel more comfortable in being able to address issues like the ones that we saw this past weekend,” Shivers said. 

The incident comes amid university efforts to proceed with drafting the Fraternity/Sorority Life Strategic Plan, part of which aims to make the community more inclusive. Part of the Division of Student Life’s efforts in moving forward with the plan, Shivers said, is having conversations with the greek community about diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Shivers said Associate Dean Bill Nelson has finished conducting forums within the community to receive their feedback on the strategic plan. Officials are now taking that information and making changes to the plan. Shivers said she should have it by the end of the month. 

Discussions to create a Fraternity/Sorority Life Strategic Plan began in fall 2018 before the UI suspended nine fraternities for alcohol- and hazing-policy violations. Four fraternity chapters from campus were later removed, and six others were placed on probation. 

Fraternity and sorority recruitment ended this week with each group gaining a new pledge class. Shivers said the strategic plan is in a great place right now in terms of helping the new members of greek life grow in a community that is working to make itself better.

“This group will come in knowing that there is a plan, knowing what the goals and strategies are, and will hopefully be on the roadmap to being able to figure out how best to support that plan,” Shivers said.

RELATED: UI greek council addresses ‘racist ideology’ in sorority member’s Instagram comments

While this was a bad incident, Shivers said, it can also be used as an opportunity for the greek community to display their values. She said students in greek life should learn to critically think about their words and how they could affect the larger community before posting something on social media. 

“What happened this weekend allows for us to have a more focused conversation with the group about the implications of and the pain and disappointment that comes when we make comments that we certainly have the right to make, but there are implications when you do something like that,” Shivers said. “And the pain and challenge that it creates for not just you, but also for the community.”

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