11/6/01

David Granger, 334/844-9999

FACT SHEET: AU INVESTIGATION OF BETA THETA PI AND DELTA SIGMA PHI FRATERNITIES

Synopsis

On Monday, Nov. 5, Auburn University temporarily suspended Beta Theta Pi and Delta Sigma Phi fraternities pending a full investigation of the circumstances surrounding photographs allegedly taken at Halloween parties that appear to violate AU's policies on harassment and discrimination.

The photographs showed students in blackface, Ku Klux Klan robes and at least one student in blackface with a noose around his neck. Several of the photographs taken at one of the parties also showed fraternity members in blackface and shirts bearing the Greek letters of Omega Psi Phi, a traditionally black fraternity with a chapter on the AU campus. Members of Omega Psi Phi discovered the offending photographs on the website of a local photographer over the weekend and copied them to the fraternity's web site, which is hosted by the AU web server. According to Omega Psi Phi, it did so to preserve "evidence" of the offensive behavior of the two predominantly white fraternities.

(NOTE: Several media reports have falsely stated that the two fraternities were suspended for posting the photographs to the AU web site. This is NOT accurate. The fraternities were temporarily suspended based on offensive behavior depicted in the photographs. The photos were posted to the AU web site by the offended fraternity, Omega Psi Phi.)

On Monday, Omega Psi Phi members met with AU administrators and showed them the pictures taken at the Beta Theta Pi and Delta Sigma Phi parties. After he became aware of the photos, Wes Williams, AUšs vice president for student affairs, met with AU President William F. Walker, who charged Williams with conducting a full and expedient investigation of the circumstances surrounding the photographs. Later on Monday morning, Williams met with his staff and, on Monday afternoon, with student leaders representing the Black Student Union, the Student Government Association, the Intrafraternity Council and Panhellenic. Following the meeting with student leaders, Williams again met with his staff and the decision was made to temporarily suspend the two fraternities pending a full investigation.

The fraternities were notified of their temporary suspensions on Monday afternoon.

On Monday evening, Walker, Williams and other AU administrators met with a large number of African-American students at a regularly scheduled meeting of AU's Black Student Union. Walker termed the photographs "shocking and outrageous" and pledged that the administration would pursue "a thorough review of the facts" and "decide on appropriate punishment."

"I am determined that this dreadful moment should serve as a positive opportunity for Auburn University to reaffirm its position on issues of diversity and discrimination, and to embody that position in loud and clear public statements of policy," Walker said. "It is my understanding that all students involved in the discussions so far agree that we should seize this moment and turn it to our advantage. I agree and we will do so. "Perhaps most importantly, this is a time for us to do what we do best. That is to educate ourselves, and all of our students, about the values this university embraces and the behaviors that we find acceptable. I see this educational process playing out not only through the policy statements I mentioned a moment ago, but also through public convocations and forums in which we can talk with one another and draw on experts to help inform our discussions. (Full texts of Monday's statements by Walker and Williams are available.) "

Other facts

** Temporary suspension of a fraternity's charter prohibits the fraternity from any functions (i.e., parties or other social functions) other than regular chapter meetings.

** Auburn University recognizes 28 social fraternities and 16 social sororities. Twenty-four of the fraternities are traditionally white and four traditionally African-American. Fifteen of the sororities are traditionally white with one traditionally African-American. Only one traditionally white fraternity and one traditionally white sorority have African-American pledges or members. Farmhouse fraternity has an African-American in its pledge class.

** Auburn University has four fraternities serving temporary suspensions. In addition to Delta Sigma Phi and Beta Theta Pi, the two fraternities temporarily suspended Monday, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Delta Chi fraternities are also serving temporary suspensions.

** Auburn University has made great strides in the recruitment of African-American students in the recent past, culminating in this fall's record African-American student population of 1,616. African-American students now make up a record 7.2 percent of Auburn's student population. In addition, 9 percent of new freshman enrolled at Auburn in the fall were African-American -- an increase of 24 percent from last fall.

Other resources Tiger Cub, AU Student Handbook (requires Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat Reader)

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nov01:AU-factsheet