Pi Beta Phi to receive sanctions for controversial video

Story by Bridget Sjoberg  | Staff Writer, Video by Kennedy Dendy | Broadcast Reporter

Sanctions are officially being placed on Pi Beta Phi sorority for a controversial video posted online on Jan. 10 by a member of the group.

The eight-second video was originally posted on the Instagram story of a Pi Beta Phi member. It depicts sorority members in their chapter room jumping and singing the lyrics to “Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes, including a lyric containing the N-word. The video was posted on Twitter soon after, receiving over 30,000 views.

Vice President for Student Life, Kevin P. Jackson, addressed the video in a statement to the Lariat deeming it “racially insensitive” and something that “does not in any way reflect Baylor’s institutional values.”

“As soon as University officials learned of the report, we began an immediate inquiry to gather additional information and initiated our established student organization conduct review process,” Jackson said. “The inquiry has been completed, and the organization has taken full responsibility for the incident and apologized for their actions. The organization, in coordination with the University, has identified internal accountability practices, cultural awareness education and ways to address the individuals responsible and the organizational culture that resulted in the racially insensitive behavior.”

Jackson said that mutually agreed-upon sanctions were decided for the sorority. Examples of these sanctions are the cancellation of a major organization event this spring, which was not specified, and the reallocation of those funds for a mandatory cultural awareness workshop for members, as well as a partnership with Multicultural Affairs to co-sponsor a cultural awareness education program for the student body, according to university spokesperson Lori Fogleman.

Pi Beta Phi responded directly to the Lariat in a statement addressing the incident, stating that the group “regrets and takes full responsibility for the actions of [their] members” and calling the language used “racially insensitive.”

“The lyrics of this song do not align with Pi Beta Phi’s core values nor do they exemplify what our organization stands for,” Pi Beta Phi’s statement said. “Chapter leadership swiftly took action to address this behavior and hold members accountable for these inappropriate actions.”

The statement also mentioned that action is being taken to better inform group members on “cultural awareness.”

“In consultation with our Headquarters and Baylor University’s Office of Student Activities, the chapter is developing a plan to address the internal factors that allowed this behavior to exist and to better educate our members on cultural awareness and sensitivity,” Pi Beta Phi’s statement read. “On behalf of all members of the Texas Zeta Chapter of Pi Beta Phi, we sincerely apologize for any offense resulting from this incident.”

Baylor Panhellenic also provided a statement to the Lariat, mentioning that they are working with Pi Beta Phi, Student Activities and Baylor University since Panhellenic became aware of the “racially insensitive video.”

“All member organizations are expected to live by the Panhellenic Creed, a statement defining our values as a community, and this incident is not reflective of that commitment,” Baylor Panhellenic’s statement said. “We are supportive of the Baylor student organization conduct review process, as well as the statement released by Baylor University.”

Baylor NAACP also released astatementon January 16th regarding the incident, calling for Pi Beta Phi to be held accountable for their actions, but for the incident to also act as a “teachable moment” for the sorority and the university as a whole.

“Baylor University prides itself on being a caring community, but this video, as well as other instances, such as cultural appropriation and awareness, have proven to be a weakness to that value,” Baylor NAACP said. “Baylor NAACP and the National Pan-Hellenic Council would like an opportunity to host an educational program for Panhellenic and other student organizations on the importance of understanding their organization’s obligation to social responsibility.”

Jackson further emphasized the inappropriate nature of the video’s contents in his statement, as well as expressed a longing to ensure that all Baylor organizations comply with university guidelines and values.

“We are deeply disappointed because we have high standards of conduct for our students and the organizations to which they belong,” Jackson said. “Baylor is strongly committed to our Christian mission, which includes understanding the importance of cultural sensitivity and ensuring we are respectful of the words that we use and their potential effect on others.”