Bob Lowry, 334/844-9999
AU FRATERNITIES SUSPENDED OVER HALLOWEEN PARTIES
AUBURN -- Two Auburn University fraternities were temporarily suspended Monday pending a full investigation of apparent violations of the university's written policy on harassment and discrimination.
Incidents at two Halloween fraternity parties on Oct. 25 and Oct. 27 were potentially offensively racist because party-goers dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes and blackface, one with a noose around his neck.
The university's recognition of Delta Sigma Phi and Beta Theta Pi was temporarily withdrawn and additional disciplinary action is possible. The national offices of the two fraternities have been alerted and are also considering action.
AU Interim President William F. Walker condemned the fraternity actions as "shocking and outrageous."
Auburn's action Monday mandates an immediate halt to all social functions of the two fraternities.
Several white fraternity members or guests appear in photographs posted on the Internet at one party wearing jerseys in the colors and bearing the letters of a fraternity whose membership is African-American. Several of the photos show fraternity members in blackface and some in KKK outfits.
"This morning I became aware of pictures that had been posted on the Internet showing scenes from Halloween parties held by two of our fraternities," said Walker. "The scenes in some of these photographs include students dressed in Klan robes, as well as students made up in blackface. At least one picture shows a student in blackface with a noose around his neck.
"These images are shocking and outrageous, and they are unacceptable. 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.
"On learning about what had happened, I instructed my staff to begin work immediately to determine the facts surrounding these photographs, and to prepare recommendations concerning the university's response.
"I see our response taking several forms. First, we are determined that our discussion of these matters and our decisions concerning them be accessible to public scrutiny. Second, we are involving many of the various stakeholder groups on and off campus in these discussions. Third, after a thorough review of the facts we will decide on appropriate punishment. As a beginning, the two fraternities involved have been placed on temporary suspension.
"Fourth, 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. 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.
"Just recently I signed the Birmingham Pledge and I believe the words of that statement capture the spirit that these very recent events suggest must be reinvigorated here at Auburn. I appreciate the comments, and the support, of all members of the campus community as we move quickly to renew our appreciation of how important tolerance and diversity are in the world we live in."
As published in the Tiger Cub, the AU student handbook, "Auburn University will not tolerate discrimination or harassment of its students. Any form of discrimination or harassment related to a student's race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or physical or mental handicap or disability is a violation of this policy and will be treated as a disciplinary matter." The policy includes a broad definition of harassment, including but not limited to "slurs, jokes or other graphic or physical conduct related to a student's race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or physical or mental disability."
Walker ended his comments with the Birmingham Pledge.
The Birmingham Pledge Sign It " Live It I believe that every person has worth as an individual. I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color. I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others.
Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions. I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity. I will treat all people with dignity and respect, and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.
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