11/8/01

David Granger, 334/84-9999

(Updating: Adding Beta Theta Pi Apology; additional info)

BETA THETA PI SUSPENDS 13; TO RECRUIT MINORITY DIVERSITY DIRECTOR

AUBURN -- Auburn University's chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity announced Thursday it has indefinitely suspended 13 members and will recruit a minority faculty member as its diversity director in the wake of a controversy surrounding chapter members photographed in blackface and wearing the Greek letters of an African-American fraternity at an Oct. 25 Halloween party.

The action was taken in a unanimous vote on Wednesday night.

Judson Horras, national director of chapter development for Beta Theta Pi, said the suspensions prohibit the suspended members from participating in any chapter activities as well as from living or eating meals at the chapter's house.

In a statement released Thursday by Zac Gibbs, president of AU's Beta Theta Pi chapter, the fraternity expressed its "deepest regret" to all individuals and "its sincerest apology to every member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.," the African-American fraternity mocked in photographs taken at the Beta Theta Pi Halloween party.

Gibbs' statement also said the chapter would recruit a minority faculty advisor to serve as diversity director for the chapter.

"This advisor will evaluate the efforts of our chapter bimonthly with regard to multicultural awareness and sensitivity and report to the Office of Student Affairs on our progress," Gibbs wrote.

The statement also pledged that the fraternity would perform 3,000 hours of community service over the next year and expressed the chapter's strong support for a campus-wide signing of the Birmingham Pledge.

In addition, Horras said Beta Theta Pi's national board of directors will meet by conference call Sunday night to consider what final actions it may take against the Auburn chapter, which it temporarily suspended earlier this week. Any sanctions the national board decides to levy against the Auburn Beta Theta Pi chapter will be announced Monday.

The disciplinary actions by Beta Theta Pi at the local and national levels both are independent of Auburn University's investigation and any disciplinary action that might result from that investigation.

On Monday, AU temporarily suspended both Beta Theta Pi and Delta Sigma Phi pending a full investigation of apparent violations of the university's written policy on harassment and discrimination at Halloween parties where party-goers dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes and blackface, one with a noose around his neck. Monday night, Delta Sigma Phi¹s membership voted to expel two of it's members and suspend four more. The national offices of Delta Sigma Phi has also temporarily suspended its Auburn chapter.

Meanwhile, Todd LaCour, president of the AU Interfraternity Council, released a statement of apology for the incidents at the two fraternities.

"These events to not accurately represent the values that our Greek system seeks to uphold," LaCour said.

The statement also pledged the IFC¹s sponsorship of a Greek Life signing of the Birmingham Pledge and sensitivity awareness training by IFC and Panhellenic Council for Auburn¹s entire Greek population

AU Interim President William F. Walker has condemned the fraternities' actions as "shocking and outrageous" and promised a thorough and expedient investigation of the incidents.

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