The Lehigh University Police Department and university officials are continuing an investigation into a social media post containing racist language that was shared throughout the Lehigh community last week.
The post was shared through various messaging channels and as a link to an image on YikYak, an anonymous social media platform. The post appeared to be a screenshot of a GroupMe message exchange between three members of the Chi Phi fraternity, but the authenticity of the image is in question.
In response to a request for comment, the individuals whose names were attached to the post issued a statement that the messages and the image itself were fabricated and falsely attributed to them.
Lori Friedman, Lehigh director of media relations, said the university is currently investigating the origin and authenticity of the image.
“The investigation is ultimately a cooperative effort, using technological tools, reports from individuals or interviews of individuals, and other appropriate means,” Friedman said.
A report posted on the LUPD Clery Crime/Fire Log on Feb.1 indicates the police are investigating the incident as harassment.
“The suspect(s) in this case harassed the victim of this case by posting a racially biased message,” the report reads.
The LUPD report says the incident took place at the Chi Phi fraternity house.
Vice President for Equity and Community Donald Outing and Vice President for Student Affairs Ric Hall addressed this incident in an email sent to the Lehigh community on Feb. 2.
The email stated that the origin and validity of the messages posted are currently under investigation by the LUPD and other offices on campus. Both parties are taking these allegations seriously and are in communication with students to collect additional information.
The full statement issued by the three Chi Phi fraternity members reads:
Members of our Equitable Community,
We are aware of the images being shared on social media, and we condemn these messages of hate in the strongest possible terms. These messages do not align with our values, and we stand in solidarity with those who have been impacted by these messages. This is yet another instance of violence against the BIPOC community, and we are deeply disturbed.
These messages were fabricated and falsely attributed to us. Upon learning of the image on Tuesday afternoon, we immediately brought the messages to LUPD’s attention and filed a criminal harassment complaint. The perpetrators responsible released these racist messages the night before potential new members signed bids to join Greek Life. We support a thorough investigation into the origins of these defamatory messages and we are fully cooperating with the authorities. We are steadfast in our commitment to holding the perpetrators accountable so that they can answer for the harm they have caused.
We understand that this incident is just another in a long list of harmful actions taken against the BIPOC community at Lehigh. We have spent the past few days meeting with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Office of Equity and Community, and various student organizations to further our understanding of the relationship between Greek Life and the BIPOC community. Moving forward, these discussions have motivated us to challenge the Greek community to have tough conversations and proactively work towards making the Lehigh community a more inclusive and welcoming place for all.
We encourage anyone with pertinent information regarding the investigation to share it with LUPD.
The Chi Phi president declined to comment on the incident.
The Interfraternity Council (IFC) Executive Board released a statement on Feb. 4 regarding the incident.
“We fully support the university’s on-going investigation and will take appropriate actions to ensure individuals involved are held responsible,” the statement said.
The IFC president declined further comment.
Friedman said the university is continuing its investigation of the image.
“If there is a determination that a crime was committed, a decision is made regarding potential criminal charges within the Lehigh police department in consultation with the Northampton County District Attorney’s office,” Friedman said.
Friedman said no outcome has been announced.
“Conducting an investigation of this kind depends upon the cooperation of all university community members who have relevant information coming forward for the good of the university community,” Friedman said.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to report it by calling LUPD at 610-758-4200 or by submitting a tip through the Hawkwatch app.