Black student leader: students threatened by a banana peel tossed in tree by white student

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A University of Mississippi Greek Life retreat was cut short last weekend after a student was caught throwing a banana peel in a tree.

Ryan Swanson admits that he threw the banana peel in the general direction of the tree after being unable to locate a trash can, and states it was entirely innocent. But Alpha Kappa Alpha president Makala McNeil, a leader of one of the school’s historically black sororities, was none too pleased when she spotted the peel. She said 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 the 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. She did note after finding out the extent of the incident, her response was an overreaction and that she and her friend were “all just sort of paranoid for a second” after spotting the banana.

Swanson apologized, although he maintained there was never any ill intent.

“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.”

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