PHOENIX — A fraternity at Arizona State University has been suspended for the racially offensive theme of a weekend party.
A Valley civil rights activist had alerted the university to the “MLK Black Party” which was hosted by Tau Kappa Epsilon on Sunday.
Rev. Jarrett Maupin said he contacted university President Michael Crow overnight. By early Monday morning, operations had been pulled from the chapter.
The fraternity had been on social probation because of some members’ involvement in an off-campus brawl with a rival fraternity in November 2012. It had been warned that it could not host “sanctioned university” events on campus.
The MLK party was off-campus.
Maupin said an African-American student who was invited to the party told him that partygoers had to “dress like black people” and drink from watermelon cups. Pictures were posted to social media sites but were later pulled.
“There should be a zero tolerance policy for racism at ASU. Period,” Maupin said in a statement.
“An estimated 80 to 100 people took part in ritualistic racism. That’s very dangerous especially on a university campus. A cup made out of a watermelon is advanced racism. Dressing up like, quote, ‘black people’ — that requires research and is advanced racism. We’re not talking about rookie racists,” Maupin told KTAR.
ASU released the following statement:
“TKE was already on social probation and was not allowed to have parties. The party held this weekend was not held on campus and was not a sanctioned university event. ASU has suspended chapter operations, can and will take additional action against the individuals involved, and is meeting with the national TKE organization today to take further action. ASU has one of the most diverse student bodies of any major university in the country, and it is unfortunate that a few misguided individuals held an offensive party at a time when ASU, the state and the nation are celebrating Dr. King’s achievements and legacy. The university will not tolerate this kind of behavior.”
National leaders from the fraternity were to meet with university officials later in the day.
A spokesman for the fraternity, headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., issued a statement in response to the incident:
“The leadership of Tau Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity publicly issues the following statement in regard to the alleged incident that occurred at Arizona State University on January 20th, 2014.
Tau Kappa Epsilon does not condone or support any actions by its members that would be defined as racist, discriminatory, and/or offensive. Social events with “party themes” that are defined as such have no place in our fraternity’s mission or purpose. It is with embarrassment and regret when a few individuals within our organization make decisions that do not align with the values and principles of Tau Kappa Epsilon.
Since 1899, our fraternity has taken much pride in the diversity and uniqueness of our membership. Tau Kappa Epsilon has never had an exclusionary clause in our membership. Our founders believed, as we do today, in the personal worth and character of the individual, not his wealth, rank, or honor. We take great pride in having members who were and are still advocates of civil rights movements in the United States. We celebrate all men and women of all races, genders, creeds, orientations, and beliefs who strive each day to make the world a better place.
We apologize for any offensive actions that a few of our members might have participated in. We can assure all other parties that these actions do not represent Tau Kappa Epsilon and the beliefs of love, charity, and esteem that we have stood by for 115 years. We will respond to these individuals while holding the utmost respect for our principles of being Better Men for a Better World.
A member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity professional staff is currently on-site at Arizona State University to begin an investigation. We have been working with university officials since we became aware of the alleged incident.”
“I don’t think this was a sense of ignorance, I think it was purposeful and intentionally hurtful and they put into play, quote ‘MLK Black Party’ and not in a way to honor King,” Maupin said.
KTAR’s Jim Cross contributed to this article.