ASU frat apologizes for 'offensive' MLK Day party - CBS 5 - KPHO

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ASU frat apologizes for 'offensive' MLK Day party

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TEMPE, AZ (CBS5/AP) -

A fraternity at Arizona State University is apologizing after some members attended a distasteful party in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day that had racist stereotypes and offensive costumes.

The ASU chapter issued this public apology to the university and community on Friday:

"We, the men of the Beta-Xi Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, apologize for the offensive and racially insensitive conduct in which a few members of our chapter recently engaged. We recognize and regret that their inappropriate behavior embarrassed Arizona State University and the Tempe community.

"Since its founding in 1899, Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity has always admitted men based on their "personal worth and character." As a Chapter of TKE, we are committed to that principle and take great pride in belonging to a fraternity that has never had a membership exclusionary policy. Our chapter also prides itself in being one of the most diverse organizations on campus, embracing members of all races, creeds, and orientations. We have absolutely no tolerance for insensitive and narrow-minded behavior and remain committed to recruiting progressive-thinking men at ASU.

"The offensive party that took place on January 19, 2014 was not planned, publicized, endorsed, hosted, or condoned in any way by either the Beta-Xi Chapter of TKE or the International Fraternity. We apologize that a few select individuals, in a moment of poor taste and bad judgment, held an event that was both insulting to the community and contrary to the values, principles, and ideals of Tau Kappa Epsilon.

"The select individuals who hosted the offensive party failed to fulfill the obligations of membership they promised to uphold when they chose to join TKE. Consequently, we have suspended those involved while we continue our investigation and begin a thorough review of their membership.

"This shameful incident is an educational opportunity, and we embrace the challenge to help our men exemplify "love, charity, and esteem" and "personal worth and character" - core values of TKE - and do our part to help our nation advance the dream of Dr. King to live in a nation where no one is "judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

"While we continue our studies at ASU and our internal review of our members, we ask that all questions and comments be directed to the Fraternity's Chief Information Officer, Alex Baker, at Tau Kappa Epsilon International Headquarters."

A spokesman for Tau Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity said only 16 of 125 members attended the party and TKE said those 16 students face suspension or expulsion from the frat.

University officials notified Tau Kappa Epsilon that its recognition as a fraternity chapter at ASU was being permanently revoked.

An ASU spokeswoman said the university is aware of the national organization's response and it doesn't change the school's action.

The Jan. 19 MLK party drew harsh criticism from Phoenix-area civil-rights leaders who demanded ASU officials expel the fraternity.

The Tau Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity released this apology last week:

Responding to the events that occurred at Arizona State University on Sunday, January 19, 2014, involving members of the Beta-Xi chapter of TKE, Tau Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity strongly condemns and sincerely apologizes for the actions of the few members involved in this incident. This incident should be a reminder of why we place such importance on our values of love, charity, and esteem. This tasteless and offensive situation is an opportunity to better educate the men of Tau Kappa Epsilon and fraternity men across the country.

We have been openly working with university officials throughout their investigation. During our investigation at ASU, we have learned the following information regarding the incident:

  1. According to ASU Interfraternity Council guidelines, the "MLK Party" was not an official fraternity event of the local TKE chapter. The event was not discussed or formally planned by the chapter.
  2. Without malice or forethought, an individual member hosted an event at his personal residence.
  3. Sixteen of the 125 chapter members attended this private function throughout the evening. There were fewer than 30 men and women at the event thus not meeting Arizona State IFC guidelines for an official fraternity function.
  4. The chapter officers who attended the event have resigned their position of leadership in TKE.
  5. We also recognize the following discrepancies reported through media outlets. Our investigation discovered there was one "watermelon cup" that was brought by a non-member of Tau Kappa Epsilon to the event. We also discovered that not all of the photographs shared with the media were photos that were taken that night. A number of photos were from a 2012 Halloween event and an earlier sporting-themed function.
  6. The Beta-Xi chapter is one of the most multi-cultural social fraternities on the ASU campus.

In the weeks leading up to this event, the chapter has been making a positive impact in the Tempe community. The men of the Beta-Xi chapter of TKE sponsored 1 mile through the Tempe Adopt-A-Street program. Days before the incident, the chapter raised over $850 for a philanthropic cause.

Tau Kappa Epsilon is taking the following corrective actions for the Beta-Xi chapter:

  1. Based on their involvement in the event, 16 members out of 125 total members, will be facing suspension or expulsion from Tau Kappa Epsilon International Fraternity.
  2. The chapter is immediately placed on probation – restricting all activities of the fraternity for a minimum of one year.
  3. The chapter is to issue a public apology to Arizona State University and the Tempe community.
  4. In an effort to promote unity and educate the students of Arizona State University, and with the permission of the university, the International Fraternity will sponsor a professional program on cultural diversity.

Since our founding in 1899, Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity has never had an exclusionary clause to prevent individuals from joining. Our founders established a fraternity in which the primary requisites for membership would be the personal worth and character of the individual rather than the wealth he possessed, the honors or titles he could display, or the rank he maintained on the social ladder.

Though we do not track any demographic information of our membership, TKE is diverse in every sense of the word. Tau Kappa Epsilon proudly represents a wide range of individuals by any measure of race, creed, beliefs, or orientation. We work every day to contribute to the advancement of society through personal growth of our members, and service to others. Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity is committed to "aid men in their mental, moral, and social development throughout their lifetime".

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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