Washington University: Officials Suspend Sigma Alpha Epsilon After Alleged Racist Pledge Prank

Categories: Education

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The Washington University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is in hot water today after allegations surfaced of a pledge activity that involved photographing black students and reciting a rap with racial slurs.

University administrators have officially suspended the SAE chapter and are now investigating the incident, outlined in an email sent out to students (and on view below). Meanwhile, a local chapter leader sent us a statement this morning from the national headquarters, which says the "alleged actions of the members are not consistent with Sigma Alpha Epsilon's values," and notes that it has officially issued a "cease-and-desist order" to the Missouri organization.

"It saddens me and it is unacceptable when any member of our community is a victim of discrimination, ignorance or hatred," Sharon Stahl, vice chancellor for students, wrote.

What happened?

The incident, reported by HuffPo via BroBible.com and the school paper Student Life, took place Tuesday night in the Bear's Den dining facility.

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BroBible got an e-mail from a tipster that said a group of about three or four white males stopped at a table of about ten black students and took out their phones to take pictures.

Then, the tipster wrote:

...the group of white males came back (there were more of them this time) and stood next to two booths that black people were sitting in. Some of the same black people who were present for the picture earlier in the night. One guy began to recite the lyrics to a rap song (Bitches Ain't Shit by Dr. Dre) as if it were a slam poem. He was reading the lyrics from his phone. The majority of the group of guys he was with found it funny and some were laughing. One member of the group was videoing the event on his phone. The guys in the group asked the black people in the booth to "show some respect" for the performance. As [redacted] continued to recite the lyrics, he came across the word "nigga" and said it with no hesitation. One of the black students tossed an empty bottle at him in anger only to be told by the group that it was part of the song, so it was okay. The black student replied that it was still offensive and the group apologized half-heartedly. One member of the group suggested that they shut down the show early.

The report also has points to this public Facebook thread, which includes an apology from Mike Zissman, president of the WashU chapter:

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Reached this morning, Zissman directed Daily RFT to the fraternity's national statement:

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon headquarters has issued a cease-and-desist order to its Missouri Beta chapter at Washington University following an incident on campus late Tuesday evening. This order means chapter activity is suspended while an investigation is conducted.

The reported and alleged actions of the members are not consistent with Sigma Alpha Epsilon's values, and the national organization offers our apologies to both the campus and local communities. The headquarters staff is working closely with university officials on their investigation to determine more details. Sigma Alpha Epsilon expects its chapters to foster the development of gentlemen, scholars and leaders.

And Brandon Weghorst, an associate executive director of communications for SAE, tells Daily RFT that as the investigation continues, SAE isn't commenting further -- but adds that we can likely expect an update later today, possibly regarding more specific sanctions from the national headquarters.

Asked if SAE has faced problems like this in the past, he says, "We have 245 groups across the country.... Whenever incidents are brought to our attention, we work through each individual.... This particular incident is not characteristic of SAE's expectations."

Meanwhile, Stahl, the vice chancellor for students, sent out a university-wide email yesterday, informing students and faculty of the investigation.

Continue for Stahl's full email and the full account of the incident.


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