Editor’s Note: This is a developing story. This article includes expletive language. This article has been updated to reflect a similarity in the content of the presentation to the fraternity's "Animal Planet" video.
A Google Slides presentation created in the 2010s by an unknown number of past members of the University of Richmond Omicron chapter of Theta Chi containing racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-Semitic and ableist content was shared among a select number of members of the fraternity between approximately 2014 and 2018, according to several Theta Chi alumni. The Collegian obtained the 58-slide presentation titled “A Sick and Dying Animal” on April 13.
The Collegian acquired the slideshow, which was last modified in Feb. 2018, following a series of suspensions of Theta Chi. In 2020, the chapter was suspended in February for the creation of a video, “Animal Planet: University of Richmond Theta Chi (Part 2)” and again in September for hazing allegations.
Theta Chi’s September suspension is still in place, Interfraternity Council President William Bartnett said. The Collegian was unable to reach current members of Theta Chi for official comment regarding knowledge of the presentation’s use beyond 2018 because of the suspension.
The suspensions came amidst a critical look at the presence and culture of Greek life on UR’s campus. On July 6, 2020, three UR students created the Instagram account @abolishrichmondgreeklife, which called for the abolition of IFC fraternities and Panhellenic Council sororities at UR.
The Center for Student Involvement, which oversees Greek life on UR’s campus, launched an internal review of Greek life following the calls. The report is expected later this month, according to an article published by The Collegian.
“A Sick and Dying Animal” exhibits content that is similar in nature to more recent images, videos and incidents about Greek life at UR discussed in relation to the abolition movement.
The presentation begins with a title slide featuring the organization’s Greek letters, followed by a slide that reads, “Part 1: What you get when an unstoppable retard meets another unstoppable retard (How we came back).” A subsequent slide contains a photo of several members of Theta Chi with a line connecting the word “Nazi” to one of the men.
One man in the presentation is described as “the closest thing to a rapist in our history,” while a different man is compared to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, known as the “Boston Marathon bomber,” in a side-by-side photo comparison.
Another slide contains the phrases “Self hating Jew” and “Called a fag ‘a fag’ to a fags face” to describe a member.
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A screenshot included in the presentation from Richmond Confessions, a Facebook account, addresses a 2014 post about a drugging allegation.
Multiple men are pictured kissing women in slides throughout the presentation, and some are pictured pretending to perform sexual acts on other members of the fraternity. The content seen in these slides is similar to the content featured in the "Animal Planet" video.
One of these slides also calls a member “Billy Macfarlanes retarded cousin,” and another includes a link to www.autismspeaks.org in a bulleted list.
A screenshot from Snapchat of a bagged white substance, possibly cocaine, with the caption “$1000 worth” is pictured on a slide that contains the phrases “Drug dealer” and an epithet used to refer to Mexican people in a derogatory manner.
The final slide of the redacted version of the presentation contains a collage of fraternity brothers, including a screenshot of a Snapchat selfie showing a man using a National Coming Out Day filter captioned “Get back in the god damn closet.”
The presentation was originally created to document the history of the chapter, and it was uploaded to Google Slides in 2018 to be added onto by members of Theta Chi, according to an alumnus of the chapter who spoke with The Collegian on the condition of anonymity. He will further be referenced in the article as Alumnus #1.
Alumnus #1 had been shown the original slideshow, which he estimated to be 28 slides, as a first year when he pledged Theta Chi, he said. When the presentation was moved to Google Slides, members of the fraternity were given access to anonymously edit and comment on it, he said.
The Collegian was unable to confirm the identities of the creators of the original slideshow or future contributors.
Some of the alumni in the presentation said they had not known that they had been included in the presentation or portrayed in the described manner to members of the chapter. Not everyone in the fraternity was involved in the creation or editing of the presentation, several alumni added.
Stefan St. John, UR ‘14, helped recolonize Theta Chi at UR in 2012. St. John said he was also unaware of the version of the presentation The Collegian obtained.
However, there had been a fraternity presentation during his time at UR that introduced the founding members, he said. A slide in “A Sick and Dying Animal” also includes a reference to the existence of other fraternity presentations.
“All of the original members had slides by the time I graduated,” St. John said, regarding the original presentation.
Alumnus #1 said he did not condone the content featured in the presentation and added, “I think what happened was when people got ahold of a PowerPoint without any, like, reference to who was writing what, [...] people felt ... more powerful to write whatever they wanted without any repercussions.
“I just think it's kind of when people go unchecked, they feel more able to say things that they wouldn’t feel comfortable saying in front of large groups.”
St. John echoed that sentiment.
“When you get an organized group of people together about something that isn't work-related or you’re not given a standard of decency, these things happen because it’s human nature,” he said.
The content featured in “A Sick and Dying Animal” is not isolated to the slideshow -- or to Theta Chi -- said a UR alumnus who spoke to The Collegian on the condition of anonymity. He will be referenced in the article as Alumnus #2.
“I think this kind of stuff is more prevalent than people like to recognize,” he said. “And it seems like the conversation of this stuff only comes up when something like a presentation, like this, or text messages or something gets aired.”
There had been a lot of conversations about trying to address the deep-seated issues of toxic masculinity within the organizations that he had been a member of during his time at UR, Alumnus #2 said.
“I think the reality is, it’s a slow burn,” he said. “It’s a painfully slow process, and if we’re being honest, I think some extent of Greek life was just not adapting fast enough. But I don’t want to say that to discredit the amount of effort that I know some of my friends, both in Greek life and in other organizations, put into trying to help people kind of change the narrative and their perspective.”
The traction gained by the Abolish Greek Life movement has made an impact on UR’s campus since its inception. As of May 20, @abolishrichmondgreeklife has 2,634 followers and 286 posts.
The current owner of @abolishrichmondgreeklife spoke to The Collegian about the nature of the presentation on the condition of anonymity.
“It just seems that abolition will actually allow people to be held accountable,” they said. “People in Greek life keep claiming, like, ‘Oh, well we're making reforms from the inside,’ but it's clear that they're not actually doing anything.
“So, if you eliminate the entire system, like, altogether, then it's not going to allow people to even feel like they have an opportunity to make these statements; you're saying stuff that's racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic. There shouldn't be a safe environment for that.”
Though the concept of abolition has gained some traction at UR, responses to Greek life abolition vary among members of the UR community, including Theta Chi alumni.
“There are some very severe issues [in Greek life], and, like, invariably in groups of that size, you get kind of bad actors, and if those kids go unchecked, or if people think they can get away with shit quietly, those bad actors will kind of thrive in that environment,” said another UR alumnus who was affiliated with Theta Chi. The alumnus spoke to The Collegian on the condition of anonymity and will further be referenced to as Alumnus #3.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a universally malignant system, at least in my experience, like, I made a good number of really close friends that I still keep in touch with,” he said. “But if bad actors are allowed to do whatever they want without any check or balance, it’s that kind of behavior that becomes more and more endemic if it goes unstopped. You just get this kind of wheel effect.”
Alumnus #3 does not feel as though abolishing Greek life is the best solution, but fraternities should instead change the focus of recruitment to the values a student could bring to the organization, aside from partying, he said.
“There were kids who got into fraternities just because they could drink a lot of beers and were despicable human beings in every other facet of their life, '' he said. “But because they had that one ‘redeeming’ quality, if you will, they get through in that way. So, I think figuring out a more effective way to standardize who does and does not get into Greek life [would help].
“For context, with Theta Chi, when kids got let in, you would sit down and you would drink and, like, impromptu you would just sit down and make votes on who should and should not get in, which is not necessarily the best modus operandi for vetting quality.”
One of the focuses of the Greek life internal review being conducted by CSI is recruitment, according to a Collegian article.
The Collegian shared the redacted version of the slideshow that is featured in this article with Alison Keller, the director of CSI, upon request after contacting CSI for comment.
“The initial shared description of this powerpoint document was alarming and disturbing,” Keller wrote in a May 15 email statement to The Collegian. “This is the first time we have been made aware of this document. It is not congruent with any of the values supported by the fraternity/sorority community, the Center for Student Involvement or the University of Richmond. Upon request, we have just received this document to review and the content is extremely troubling and unsettling. Immediate and intentional efforts to define next steps will occur immediately.”
The Collegian also shared the redacted version of the slideshow with the Theta Chi International Headquarters upon request after contacting the organization for comment and was provided with the following statement by Chief Communications Officer Ben Hill:
“On May 19, 2021, The Collegian provided Theta Chi International Headquarters with a significantly redacted set of 14 slides containing allegations of misconduct and inappropriate content that is inconsistent with the Fraternity’s ideals. Theta Chi Fraternity International Headquarters is investigating the origins and content of the provided slides and will respond appropriately upon the completion of its investigation.”
As @abolishrichmondgreeklife comes close to a year since its creation, there is uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the movement on UR’s campus.
Although Alumnus #2 said he benefited in some ways from his time in Greek life, he did not feel as though there had been adequate systemic change throughout his time at UR.
“I think that my time in Greek life definitely taught me a lot of valuable things and I developed a lot of valuable relationships, but by the time I got to the end of my time at U of R, just seeing that the same issues in Greek life that we had been talking about for all four years I was there did not seem to be moving in any sort of meaningful way, I definitely just got the sense that the efforts made by myself and some others I knew in Greek life to try and change the broader narrative were just not generating the desired outcomes.
“And at that point, it does bring into question, okay the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results –– you know, maybe there does need to be more drastic change.”
Confidential on-campus resources for counseling are Counseling and Psychological Services and the Office of the Chaplaincy.
Non-confidential resources include the Office of Common Ground and the Westhampton College and Richmond College deans’ offices.
LGBTQIA support lines include the Trevor Project at 866.488.7386; LGBT National Youth Hotline at 800.246.7743; LGBT National Hotline at 888.843.4564.
Confidential sexual assault resources for UR students include CARE Advocates, which can be reached at email@example.com or 804.801.6251; Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisors (PSMA), at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804.346.7674; CAPS, at CAPS@richmond.edu or 804.289.8119; Virginia LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline (24/7), at 866.356.6998; Greater Richmond Regional Hotline (24/7), at 804.612.6126; National Sexual Assault Hotline (24/7) at 800.656.HOPE.
Crisis Text Line is a free, 24/7, confidential text message service for people in crisis. To contact the line, text HOME to 741741.
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