Greek Life retreat cancelled after banana peel found in tree
A Greek Life retreat at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) was promptly cancelled this weekend after a banana peel was found hanging in a tree.
“To be clear, many members of our community were hurt, frightened, and upset by what occurred at IMPACT,” Interim Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life Alexa Lee Arndt remarked in an email between Greek leaders, according to The Daily Mississippian. “Because of the underlying reality many students of color endure on a daily basis, the conversation manifested into a larger conversation about race relations today at the University of Mississippi.”
"To be clear, many members of our community were hurt, frightened, and upset by what occurred."
Apparently, student Ryan Swanson admitted to discarding the banana peel in a tree after he was unable to locate a garbage can, and it was later spotted by Alpha Kappa Alpha President Makala McNeil, who leads one of the campuses historically black sororities.
“The overall tone was heavy. I mean, we were talking about race in Mississippi and in the Greek community so there’s a lot involved,” McNeil recalled, later adding that she and her friend were “all just sort of paranoid for a second” after spotting the banana.
After word of the banana spread throughout the retreat, leaders decided to end the event early. Arndt explained that she “felt it was imperative to provide space immediately to students affected by this incident.”
According to The DM, some students left the retreat in tears, with McNeil noting that they “didn’t feel welcome” and “didn’t feel safe.”
Swanson apologized for the incident, writing in a statement that he wants to “sincerely apologize for the events that took place this past weekend.”
“Although unintentional, there is no excuse for the pain that was caused to members of our community,” he continued. “I have much to learn and look forward to doing such and encourage all members of our community to do the same.”
While it is unclear how the university will proceed to handle the incident, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement Katrina Caldwell noted that she will be speaking with fellow leaders to decide “what makes the most sense.”
“Right now, we’re just talking to people on campus who have some experience working across diversity to help the students process what happened,” she added.
Campus Reform reached out to both Swanson and the university for additional information regarding the incident, and is currently awaiting a response.
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