Two days after news broke that a Halloween party co-sponsored by Kappa Alpha and Zeta Psi fraternities included three individuals dressed in blackface, the national administrative office of the Kappa Alpha Order lifted its suspension on its University chapter yesterday.
The decision came after the national office's investigation determined that none of the individuals who painted their faces were members of Kappa Alpha, according to Larry Wiese, executive director of the Kappa Alpha Order.
Wiese said the national office chose to lift the suspension because they believed Kappa Alpha Order was not responsible for the racially offensive costumes.
"The decision was made because we concluded our investigation and determined that, while the conduct was offensive, Kappa Alpha Order was not involved," Wiese said.
This action, however, will not effect Kappa Alpha Order's status at the University, Inter-Fraternity Council President Phil Trout said.
"The decision from the Kappa Alpha nationals does not have an effect on our investigation," Trout said.
Zach Terwilliger, IFC vice president for judiciary, confirmed the national decision has no bearing on the local investigation.
Kappa Alpha Order "is still suspended from the IFC," Terwilliger said. "They will be treated the same way" as before the decision.
Okem Nwogu, vice chairman of the Black Fraternal Council, was critical of the lifted suspension, saying he felt the Kappa Alpha Order is still accountable for the offensive actions because they co-sponsored the party.
"Accountability has to be placed on Kappa Alpha and Zeta Psi because they controlled access to the party," Nwogu said. He described the acts as "blatantly ignorant," adding that both fraternities are "guilty by omission" for not controlling the content of their party.
Nwogu added that the costume of the individual dressed as a blackfaced Uncle Sam was particularly offensive because of the historical context of blackface.
"Blackface is a reference to minstrel shows, where white men dressed up as plantation slaves and imitated black musical and dance forms in a derogatory and paradoxical manner," Nwogu said. "That's a symbol of a time when black people were subjected to all different sorts of discrimination and racist practices. Black people weren't treated as equals."
Wiese said the national Kappa Alpha Order office will try to atone the damage done to its reputation.
"We are concerned about image," he said. "Mainly we're concerned that this type of behavior doesn't happen again where Kappa Alpha can be associated with it."
Wiese added that the national office will facilitate education about racial sensitivity for members of the University chapter, but said there were no specific plans at this time.
Aaron Laushway, assistant dean of students and director of fraternity and sorority life, said he will pay close attention to how these changes are implemented.
"I will be interested in the means by which the general headquarters of the Kappa Alpha Order will work with the undergraduate members of the University to prevent participation in an event at which such offensive behavior occurs," Laushway said.
He added that the burden also falls to the students, saying he is "equally interested in the ways in which our students who are members of the Lambda chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order participate in the ongoing education of others about behavior which is offensive, harmful and divisive in our community of trust."