Fraternities Suspended for Wearing Racially Offensive Costumes
AUBURN, Ala.Two Auburn University fraternities were suspended earlier this month because members dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes and blackface — one with a noose around his neck — during a Halloween party. Delta Sigma Phi and Beta Theta Pi fraternities, both with mostly White members, are being investigated for violating Auburn’s discrimination and harassment rules, says spokesman Jim Jackson. The university began its investigation when professionally taken pictures from the party were put on the Internet over the weekend, officials said. PartyPics.com, a service that photographs social events, later pulled the photos from its Web site. “These images are shocking and outrageous, and they are unacceptable,” says Interim President William Walker. “On behalf of the faculty, staff and students I apologize deeply for the hurt that has been caused for so many by the insensitive acts of a few students.”The photographs show two students, one wearing a Klan robe and hood, pointing a gun toward a third student wearing blackface with a noose around his neck. The three stood in front of a Confederate flag. In another photo, fraternity members are wearing blackface, wigs and shirts with the letters of Omega Psi Phi, one of four predominantly Black fraternities at Auburn. None of the students have been publicly identified. Omega Psi Phi President Octavius Walton said fraternity members copied the photos from the Internet and contacted the administration. “We knew it would be a problem trying to prove it. We had to have evidence,” Walton says. “It’s not what you can say, but what you can prove.”Delta Sigma Phi members apologized for the incident before a group of students from the Black Student Union. Jon Hockman, executive director of Delta Sigma Phi’s national office in Indianapolis, called the images “deplorable and completely contradictory to our fraternity’s values and beliefs.” Beta Theta Pi has not made a public statement. Fewer than 10 percent of Auburn’s 22,000 students are black. Neither of the two fraternities has a Black member. Interfraternity Council President Todd LaCour said the two fraternities aren’t representative of Auburn’s Greek system. “We neither encourage nor condone this behavior,” he says. “And we’re working to see that it doesn’t happen again and that appropriate punishment is handed down.”Auburn University needs to thoroughly investigate and properly punish the fraternities, says Sanford Johnson, president of the Black Student Union. “We want to see these groups and these individuals held accountable,” he says. “So much racial progress has been made the last few years, and one incident like this could reverse all of that.”The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery has launched its own investigation.
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