N-word incident at Wash U

3/21/2013, 2:15 p.m.

Aggressive supporters of the Washington University fraternity pledges involved in the racial incident last week bombarded social media after the Association of Black Students released a statement requesting that the administration take "unequivocal action in resolving this issue of ignorance and racism."

"It is our expectation that the administration will suspend both the primary students directly involved in the incident and those that specifically gave the directive for the task of concern," ABS leaders stated.

On Feb. 26, some Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity pledges offended a group of African American students eating dinner in the dining hall when one of the pledges read rap lyrics with the N-word in front of them, as part of a scavenger hunt.

The racial incident made national news, and the fraternity's national leaders ordered a "cease and desist" of all the chapter's activities until it completes an investigation of the incident. On Feb. 27, Vice Chancellor for Students Sharon Stahl emailed the Washington community saying, "It is unacceptable when any member of our community is a victim of discrimination, ignorance or hatred."

The story first broke in the campus' Student Life newspaper, where the online story has received hundreds of anonymous comments dismissing the racial incident.

"It was the pledges who were unfairly maligned here," one commenter stated. "Let the lawsuits begin."

Some stated they were donors who would pull their funding if the pledges were punished. One Washington University freshman wrote a letter to the editor stating that the comments on the student newspaper's site and Facebook will deter prospective students.

"If I were a prospective student and I read some of the comments on that article, I would never even consider attending Washington University, and many of my friends feel the same way," freshman Schuyler Atkins stated.

African American students make up six percent of undergraduates, according to the university's website. Senior Jason Parks wrote that the anonymous online format allows students to hide behind their insensitivity, and it breeds fear on campus among minorities and the entire community.

"Imagine walking through campus thinking that any one of your fellow students can be racist or cares very little about your suffering," Parks stated.

After monitoring the comments, the Student Life editorial staff stated in an online letter that they have seen dozens of community members attempt to "minimize emotions of hurt as overreactions."

"Shaming students for feeling hurt by a racial slur devalues the actual pain that such a word can inflict," they stated.

David Yang, chair of the Diversity Affairs Council, said that council members met for five hours on Feb. 27 before releasing a statement that called for a "collective response" and a safe space to discuss the campus climate.

University administrators, led by Stahl, have been meeting with student groups continuously, Yang said. However, they have not volunteered to host a campus-wide forum.

On Tuesday night, the Diversity Affairs Council held and facilitated a forum for students at the Karl D. Umrath Hall at 5 p.m., which was closed to the public. Spring break starts next week.