Fraternity apologizes for racist incident

By Peter Shahin, Daily News Editor
and Yardain Amron, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 31, 2013

On Thursday, LSA senior Eric Quang, president of the University’s chapter of Theta Xi, issued a statement apologizing on behalf of his fraternity for a Facebook party event associated with his chapter entitled, “World Star Hip Hop Presents: Hood Ratchet Thursday,” a name many deemed to be racist and derogatory. Quang wrote that while the event was “created and emblazoned with the name of our fraternity,” it was not “the result of a chapter decision, vote, or endorsement.”

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Click here to see the full text of Theta Xi's apology issued on Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, The Michigan Daily reported that the fraternity was facing scrutiny as many students of color were offended by the Facebook event, which many viewed as degrading toward women and parodying of black culture, referring to “bad bitches,” repeated use of the word “ratchet,” gang references and a twerking contest.

The event was canceled after a meeting between Quang, Nina Grant, coordinator of the Bias Response Team, Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones, members of Greek Life and the Interfraternity Council. Jones lodged a formal complaint against the fraternity after outcry from students.

The story has drawn widespread media attention as the University has moved swiftly to investigate and resolve the incident.

According to an e-mail obtained by The Michigan Daily, the apology was forwarded by Jones to a University listserv which includes the Office of the University President; E. Royster Harper, vice president of the Division of Student Life; LSA senior Tyrell Collier, speaker of the Black Student Union; University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham; Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs; and Central Student Government President Michael Proppe — among others.

Quang appeared to contradict himself in his apology, claiming multiple “individuals (were) responsible” for the “insensitive, hurtful, and offensive” content, while earlier claiming a single member was responsible for the incident.

Also on Thursday, LSA junior Allen Wu, a member of the fraternity, apologized in a viewpoint in the Daily for playing a role in the creation of the event. His apology was in response to a viewpoint by LSA senior Erin Fischer, which criticized the fraternity and its “incredibly offensive party theme.”

In his statement, Quang highlighted the diverse backgrounds of his chapter and apologized to “all of the members of our student body, including those of all ethnicities, and to all women.” He accepted responsibility for the “harmful consequences of our inaction to promptly stifle the event’s communication.”

The University’s chapter of Theta Xi is working with the fraternity’s national headquarters and the University’s administration to reeducate chapter members and the student body to prevent similar incidents from occurring.

In an e-mail to University students Thursday morning, Harper, Jones and Mary Beth Seiler, director of Greek Life, wrote that the party invitation “denigrated all women and African American/black identified people.”

Although the e-mail did not identify the fraternity by name, Harper, Jones and Seiler wrote that their behavior will not be tolerated as it contradicts the University’s core values and expectations.

The three also wrote that the University is working with the fraternity’s national headquarters, which has put restrictions on the fraternity until it completes a full investigation of the incident.

Collier, the speaker of the Black Student Union, said in an interview late Thursday that he was pleased with the University’s initial response to the incident, but that more action was needed in the future.

“I think that it was an appropriate response and it’s a first step,” Collier said. “There needs to be things to follow that. I appreciated it for the fact that it shows campus that they are handling the situation and they’re not (overlooking) it, but it’s a first step and it’s definitely not enough.”

Kinesiology senior Michael Freedman, president of the Interfraternity Council, was unavailable for comment late Thursday.

— Daily News Editor K.C. Wassman contributed reporting.

Correction Appended: A previous version of this article misidentified Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones as also being the University's Bias Response Team coordinator.