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Duke fraternity that held party mocking Asians is suspended

February 07, 2013|By David Zucchino
  • Students at Duke University protest a campus fraternity party that mocked Asians.
Students at Duke University protest a campus fraternity party that mocked… (David Zucchino / Los Angeles…)

DURHAM, N.C. -- The Duke University fraternity that threw a party mocking Asians has been suspended by its national office for "inappropriate and insensitive" behavior.

Photos from a Feb. 1 party hosted by Kappa Sigma fraternity were posted on Facebook, showing partygoers dressed in Asian gowns and conical caps, some with chopsticks in their hair.  An invitation emailed to Duke students was addressed, "Herro Nice Duke Peopre!!" and closed with, "Chank You."

Mitchell B. Wilson, executive director of the national Kappa Sigma fraternity in Charlottesville, Va., said in a telephone interview Thursday that the Duke fraternity, known as the Eta Prime Chapter, had been ordered to cease all activities. Wilson said an investigation was underway to determine further possible sanctions.

The party, titled "AsiaPrime," outraged Asian American students, who staged a campus protest Wednesday to demand that the university hold the fraternity accountable. A group of Asian American students read a statement condemning "the existence of deep and profound discrimination"’ against Asians at Duke.

The students accused the fraternity of "reducing our way of life into a crude joke for one drunken night of so-called fun."

Asian Americans made up 22% of Duke’s undergraduate population in 2008, the last year for which statistics are available.

Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs at Duke, said university officials confronted fraternity members about their "thoughtless and offensive actions" and urged them to apologize. At this point, Moneta said, the university does not plan to formally discipline the fraternity but reserves the right to do so.

The chapter lost its charter in 2002 for alcohol-related violations and had to move off campus, Wilson said. It was rechartered in April 2011 and returned to campus. It is Kappa Sigma’s second-oldest chapter, founded in 1873 at Trinity College, which later became Duke University.

Wilson described the party as "conduct unbecoming a chapter of Kappa Sigma."

The Eta Prime Chapter president, Luke Keohane, apologized in an email sent to Duke’s student newspaper, the Chronicle. "Upon learning of the deeply damaging effects of our email to our fellow students, we should have completely canceled the aforementioned party," the email said.

Moneta said other universities and high schools nationwide have had to deal with similar incidents. "Unfortunately, humor based on stereotype is all too common," he said.

Last year, members of a sorority at Penn State dressed in sombreros and gag mustaches at a party. They held signs that read, "Will mow lawn for weed + beer" and "I don’t cut grass, I smoke it." The sorority later apologized and no disciplinary action was taken.

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