SMU Releases Statement On Racially Insensitive Frat Party. But This Isn’t An Isolated Incident.

Earlier this week, we became aware of a racist party being thrown by two Southern Methodist University fraternities at Gilley’s. The party didn’t outright demand blackface, but its suggestions weren’t far off, either: The theme included the word “ice” (as in diamonds), and attendees were encouraged to wear “bling,” “throwback jerseys” and “tall tees,” and to bring out their “inner thug.”

Since that initial report, the Facebook event page has been deleted and the Boys & Girls Club of Dallas, the charity that the two fraternities (Alpha Epsilon Pi and Pi Kappa Alpha) were planning on donating profits of their party to, distanced itself from the event. In an email, a spokesperson told us that the Boys & Girls Club was not aware of the party before its invites went out, and says that it has since requested that its name be removed from any promotion of the party.

With the event page now gone, it seems as if the party has been canceled. We’ve reached out to the fraternities involved to confirm this, but have yet to receive a response.

Today, though, SMU president R. Gerald Turner has released a statement denouncing the party and indicating that the affair has indeed been called off. His message reads in part as follows:

I am deeply concerned about the recent actions of two campus fraternities in planning and promoting an off-campus party with racially offensive themes and images. This party was not sanctioned by SMU, and this incident is under review by the University.

Although the offensive party has been cancelled, and the inappropriate Facebook promotions have been removed, the key point is that SMU students should know better than to engage in such irresponsible and insensitive conduct. It is simply unacceptable for any campus group or individual to employ images and language that promote negative stereotypes and are demeaning to the dignity of any member of our campus community. If students choose to create themes based on their ideas of popular culture, they should be aware of the potential impact and always keep in mind respect for others.

You can read the statement in full here.

It should also be noted, however, that this party is just one in a string of racially insensitive instances at SMU this week.

As reported by The Daily Campus, a graduate of the university named Noura Liben and three other students were mislabeled as an African and Middle Eastern Studies students by the school. Liben has since noted that she graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering. The other three students studied biology, chemistry and English. In other words: The school just used their photos to assume they were affiliated with a program they did not study, simply because they appeared African and Middle Eastern.

Meanwhile, a string of comments on GreekRank.com have come to light today, listing the reasons why an anonymous SMU student and sorority member feels as if “black women do not and will not get bids” in white sororities at the school. Twitter user @MyPwi (short for My Predominately White University) caught wind of the comments and shared them to her feed, where they have since been spreading rapidly.

 

These instances are not outliers, chance or happenstance. They’re indicative of the greater culture at a predominately white university located in one of the most exclusively wealthy and white parts of the country. According to to SMU’s own website, its student body in 2013 was made up of 25 percent minority students. But just 6 percent (or 662 students) of the student body identified as black.

If President Turner is committed to making each and every student at the university feel comfortable, welcome and safe — as every administrator should — he’s got some work to do beyond the release of a simple statement.

Update at 6:48 p.m.: The university has now also issued a statement in response to the GreekRank posts. It reads as follows:

The content of these anonymous posts on GreekRank is clearly abhorrent and would not represent standards and values at SMU. GreekRank is an independent site that has no ties with the University. The difficulty with anonymous postings on social media is clearly demonstrated in this case. The postings from what may be one person can easily be amplified to incorrectly represent the opinions of many, even if there is no actual affiliation with the group they purport to represent nor truth in what they post. The GreekRank postings have created a widespread response from members of our campus community who are actively rejecting and criticizing these comments now that they have surfaced.

Cover photo by Jeffrey Beall, via WikiCommons.
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