A Greek life retreat scheduled to take place at the University of Mississippi was cut short last weekend after a banana peel was found hanging in a tree on campus.
Student Ryan Swanson admitted to tossing his banana peel into a nearby tree after he was unable to locate a garbage can. Shortly after he disposed of the peel, it was spotted by Alpha Kappa Alpha President Makala McNeil, a leader of one of the school’s historically black sororities.
Despite Swanson’s explanation, a report from the student newspaper claims that students left the retreat in tears after finding out that McNeil has discovered the peel. McNeil claims the students “didn’t feel welcome” or “safe” on campus.
“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 said in a statement that was published by Ole Miss’ student newspaper 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.”
“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.
Swanson offered an apology, despite maintaining that his disposal of the peel was entirely innocent. “Although unintentional, there is no excuse for the pain that was caused to members of our community,” he said. “I have much to learn and look forward to doing such and encourage all members of our community to do the same.”