Washington University Fraternity Suspended Over Racist Pledge Selection
Yesterday, Washington University in St Louis formally suspended the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the school following an incident in which pledges were made to say racist slurs to African-American students as a rush activity.
The incident in question occurred at a campus dining hall on February 26th, where a group of Caucasian students arrived and began taking pictures of a group of African-American students seated at a table. One member of the group reportedly moved behind the table to pose in the picture with the African-American students.
“One of them yelled out “Got it!” and he returned to the group,” said an anonymous member of the group of African-American students on the website BroBible. “Mind you, we can clearly see what they are doing because the table is round, so at least half of the people were making direct eye contact with the picture takers.”
Approximately a half-hour later, the group of Caucasian students returned and stood next to another table with African-American students, some of which were present for the earlier event. One of the pledges then proceeded to recite the lyrics of “Bitches Ain’t Shit” by Dr. Dre in the style of slam-poetry while another video tapped. When the African-American students began to react negatively, one member instead told them to “show some respect.”
When the student reciting the lyrics proceeded to say a verse containing the N-word, one African-American student then tossed an empty bottle at the speaker. The pledges then responded that it was “okay” due to it being a part of the song, and only apologized after an African-American student stated that it was offensive regardless.
Later, the student who had been reciting the lyrics returned to the African-American students to apologize, and finally explained that it was part of a pledge activity for Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“He said that he was doing it for a student group,” wrote the anonymous witness. “He did not want to say the name of the student group when asked to clarify. He finally admitted that it was part of an initiation for Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He said that because the group knew that he did slam poetry in high school, they thought it would be funny to have him say the lyrics to that rap song with the inflection of a slam poet.”
Sharon Stahl, Vice Chancellor for Students at Washington University, responded to the incident in an email the next day.
“This morning, I called together a group of university leaders after hearing about the reports, and we have already set in motion a thorough investigation of the incident and all those involved,” wrote Stahl. “In addition, all chapter activities of SAE have been suspended until the investigation is complete.”
Stahl’s email continued by vowing to house a better dialogue on race relations at the school by reaching out to various African-American groups on campus like the Assocaition of Black Students and the Student Union’s Diversity Affairs Council, while also reiterating the school’s commitment to diversity.
“It saddens me and it is unacceptable when any member of our community is a victim of discrimination, ignorance or hatred,” Stahl continued. “The reported behavior is totally incongruous with the university’s firm belief in the power of diversity. We are a community that values everyone, and this kind of behavior is an insult and an affront to us all. We are stronger as an institution and a community when we draw on our differences to learn and grow.”