University of Maryland investigating racist Kappa Sigma email

The University of Maryland is investigating a 2014 email allegedly sent by a white Kappa Sigma fraternity member using racial epithets to refer to African American, Indian and Asian women and encouraging fellow members to have sex with women in their basement regardless of consent.

“The vulgar language in the email expresses views that are reprehensible to our campus community,” Wallace Loh, the university’s president, wrote in a message posted on the school’s website. “We immediately met with the individual involved, and a university investigation is currently under way, led by the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct.”

According to Loh, the school first learned of the email Tuesday.

“Don’t invite any n----- gals or curry monsters or slanted eye chinks, unless they’re hot,” the email, addressed to six other members, reads in part. “Ziggy you’re [sic] girl can come she’s cool. Remember my n---as, erect, assert, and insert, and above all else, f--- consent.”

According to Kappa Sigma, the unidentified student was suspended from the fraternity. He then “submitted a letter of resignation.”

“This action by a single individual is in no way representative of the culture or diversity of Kappa Sigma’s chapter at the University of Maryland, nor the character of the general fraternity’s nearly 20,000 undergraduate and more than 220,000 living alumni members,” Kappa Sigma's national office said in a statement. “While clearly unfortunate, Kappa Sigma Fraternity was glad to see the swift and decisive action being taken by its chapter at the University of Maryland.”

The school will “provide educational training on diversity and respect” for Kappa Sigma at the fraternity's request, Loh said.

“The University of Maryland remains committed to our core values of respect for human dignity, diversity, and inclusiveness,” the president added. “We are deeply saddened by the impact this email is having on our community.”

The incident comes amid increasing scrutiny of fraternities in the wake of a controversial video showing members of Oklahoma University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity participating in a racist chant, prompting a Civil Rights Act investigation. Last week, two students “who played a leadership role” in the singing were expelled, the university said.

It’s not the first time members of SAE and Kappa Sigma have faced disciplinary action for racist actions in recent years.

In December, SAE suspended all activity at Clemson University “after white students dressed as gang members at a ‘Cripmas’ party,” the Associated Press reported.

In 2013, Kappa Sigma suspended its Duke University chapter over an international-themed party that mocked Asians.

Other fraternities have reported similar incidents:

— Arizona State University banned Tau Kappa Epsilon last year after its Martin Luther King Jr. Day party had guests flashing gang signs and holding watermelon-shaped cups.

— Sigma Phi Epsilon shut its doors last year at the University of Mississippi, after three of its members draped a Confederate banner and placed a noose around the statue of the school’s first black student.

— Lehigh University suspended Sigma Chi in April 2014 and expelled members after racial slurs were spray-painted and eggs were thrown at a multicultural residence hall.


“All too often the outcry has been, ‘Look at those bad apples we need to root out,’” Nolan L. Cabrera, a professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, told the Associated Press. “When in fact, the conversation we need to have is, ‘Why is this occurring on such a widespread level throughout the country?’”

One reason is the “long, fraught racial history” of American fraternities.

“The American fraternity system has long been the site of pitched battles about racial integration, Confederate symbols and racist language,” Alyssa Rosenberg wrote in the Washington Post. “These incidents happen with such frequency that it’s almost worth looking at racial blowups at fraternities as a lagging indicator of American attitudes, a sign that progress toward racial equality is not the same thing as widespread consensus in favor of it.”

Another: The fraternity members are mostly white.

“We shouldn’t be surprised when unequal and segregated organizations say racist things,” Matthew Hughey, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut, told the AP. “Of course they do.”

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