The Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity at the University of Louisville has had its privileges suspended for the rest of the school year in response to an Oct. 27 incident in which four white members dressed in blackface and an African-American member wore a Ku Klux Klan outfit, which was later burned, at an off-campus Halloween party. The ruling was handed down Thursday, Nov. 29, by a three-member panel that heard the case.
TKE will be prohibited from all activities except prior approved community service activities and a series of racial education sessions. The sanctions will run through May 15, 2002. The fraternity had been on temporary suspension pending the investigation.
Provost Carol Garrison made the decision to suspend the fraternity after receiving the report and recommendations of the three-member panel. TKE had been charged with violating the Student Organization Code of Conduct. The panel’s full report, as well as other related items, can be found at http://www.louisville.edu/update.
The panel first had to rule whether a hearing was warranted, since the party was at an off-campus site. The panel determined that while the fraternity did not sponsor the party, there was significant evidence that it was a TKE-affiliated party. The panel showed that directions to the party were posted in the TKE house, TKE members had announced the party at a fraternity meeting, and the party was thrown by a TKE alum, citing all as evidence in the finding.
After ruling that further proceedings were justified, the panel went on to rule that the event also violated Section 8t of the University Code of Student Conduct, which states: “Prohibited Conduct: “Engaging in intentional or reckless conduct that seriously alarms, intimidates or harasses others and serves no legitimate purpose.”
The panel then made its sanction recommendations, stating that it “desires to focus on the healing of the campus in the wake of these violations, the further education of TKE students and finally, providing a punishment strong enough to heighten TKE membership awareness of the significance of the violations.”
According to the report, TKE members must attend two hour-long educational sessions on the role of “blackface” and the role of the Ku Klux Klan in African-American history . TKE members must also sponsor and introduce a third, university-wide, educational session on “living, working, and playing in an integrated society.”
TKE’s suspension of privileges for the remainder of the year will include, but are not limited to: participation in Spring Rush, intramural sporting events, Greek Week and TKE Week. Also, no non-TKE members will be allowed on TKE premises (TKE house and surrounding grounds) for the remainder of the year.
The panel’s report went on to say that they would have recommended the strictest punishment possible, suspension of organizational recognition, had the educational sanctions recommended not required TKE to be a Recognized Student Organization (RSO).
President John Shumaker commented on the results of the TKE incident in a statement to the university community.
“We realize that sometimes in such circumstances there are issues of an individual’s freedom of expression, but the safety of all of our students is a stronger imperative,” he said.”We have made great progress in expanding our diversity initiatives in recent years, but this incident and the concerns that have grown from it remind us that this is an evolutionary process.”
Some students felt that the sanctions were too harsh on the fraternity. “I think the punishment was pretty rough. It’s a big deal to get suspended from all that stuff,” said junior biology major Stephanie Mullins.
Others, though, felt that the punishment fit the crime. “I think that the sanctions aren’t too strict. They did enough to let them know what they did was wrong,” said junior English major Bill Patton.
These sentiments were echoed by sophomore chemistry major Tony Jackson, who said, “I’d say that the panel made a good decision, really. They didn’t go overboard, but didn’t let them go free.”
Still some others questioned whether the TKE members would learn from their actions.”Even with the punishment, I still wonder if they know why what they did was so wrong,” said sophomore philosophy major Sarah Hoeller.