N-word incident at Wash U
3/21/2013, 2:15 p.m.
"Our goal following spring break is to continue the discussion and formulate a plan of action," Yang said. "This will be aimed at improving the structure of our community so we can prevent situations like this."
Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton released a letter to students Tuesday night applauding their efforts to build dialogue. "I encourage more of it," he stated.
Facts of the incident, photos of the pledges and a copy of the pledge's scavenger hunt list hit social media quickly. A group of Black students were eating dinner at Bear's Den Tuesday night and were approached by a group of SAE fraternity pledges on a scavenger hunt, who took a picture of a pledge brother standing behind them. Then, one pledge began reading the lyrics to Dr. Dre's B-- Ain't S--, and some of the Black students got up to leave.
Student Life posted a copy of the scavenger hunt instructions, which showed the pledge could also have chosen Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz's Get Low. Both songs contain multiple uses of the N-word.
In regards to the fraternity members' discipline, Joe Craig, a junior and Interfraternity Council president, issued a statement distancing the students' actions from the council and chapter of SAE.
"The actions of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledges are not consistent with our values, or the values of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and we are confident that the responsible parties will be disciplined accordingly," Craig wrote.
Disciplining the fraternity members is just one part of multiple strategies students are working on to address the issue, said Jamala Rogers, longtime social-justice activist and chair emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle. Students have organized a "Dear Chancellor Mark Wrighton" video campaign on Facebook, where students can voice their opinions.
OBS supports the Association of Black Students' request to suspend those involved in the incident.
"At minimum that needs to happen to send a message that this behavior won't be tolerated," Rogers said. "It's an opportunity for the chancellor to show how you address an incident like this." The anonymous aggressive comments are all part of this becoming a teachable moment, she said.
"You really get to see where the people are," she said. "And now you know what kind of work you have to."
This week, Oberlin College in Ohio also responded to racial incidents. On Monday, Oberlin canceled classes and convened a "day of solidarity" after a person wearing a robe and hood appeared near its Afrikan Heritage House early Monday morning. In a statement, Marvin Krislov, Oberlin's president, said that the recent series of hate-related incidents on campus called for a series of discussions.
A campus-wide gathering of solidarity would be helpful on Washington University's campus as well, said Shanti Parikh, associate professor of sociocultural anthropology and African and African American studies.
"This isn't about blaming people," she said. "It's about understanding what our actions can do, whether intentional or not. Coming together would be very useful."
Sharon Stahl said things are happening on a micro level, and administrators are partnering with students on action plans. She said she didn't want to say what prospective plans have been discussed and how soon they would be put in place. The university's investigation into the incident is still in process.