Arizona Fraternity Suspended After MLK Party

By Jude Joffe-Block
January 21, 2014
Jude Joffe-Block
Black students and local civil rights leaders held a press conference at ASU to denounce the party.

PHOENIX – An Arizona State University fraternity that held an “MLK Black Party” over the weeknd has been suspended by the school.  

Local black leaders say the party was racist and an assault on the black community, and are demanding tough sanctions.

Photos from the Tau Kappa Epsilon party circulated on social media showing students dressed like gangsters and drinking out of watermelon cups. One photo was tagged on Instagram “#ihaveadream” and “#blackoutformlk.”

Local black leaders and black student groups denounced the party at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. Rev. Jarret Maupin said he received calls from black students in the early morning hours after the party.

Maupin said they called, distraught, after hearing racial slurs there, as well as “having to deal with people creating a mob of a minstrel show.”

ASU Senior Vice President of Education Outreach and Student Services Jim Rund said the university is gathering facts to find out what exactly occurred.

“When we learned of the behavior we found it completely outrageous, extraordinarily offensive and wholly unacceptable,” Rund said.

Rund said the future of the fraternity's chapter at ASU is in jeopardy. The chapter was already on probation for another incident.

“We will take deliberate and swift and appropriate action regarding the status of both the chapter as well as the undergraduates involved,” Rund said.

University administrators currently believe about 50 students were involved.

Local black leaders are calling for TKE to be permanently banned from ASU and the students involved to be expelled. They also want university-wide anti racism training.  

If these outcomes aren't met, they are prepared to call for a boycott of ASU's athletics program, said Rev. Luther Holland.

Photos circulated on social media showed white students dressed in costume for the frat party.

“If our young brothers and sisters don't feel safe at Arizona State University in all of its campuses, then they should not come,” Holland said.

The frat's chapter at the University of Arizona in Tucson lost its university recognition due to hazing incidents, and isn't allowed back until 2016.

A representative from the national fraternity traveled to Tempe to meet with administrators on Tuesday.

“We apologize for any offensive actions that a few of our members might have participated in,” read a statement posted to the national fraternity’s website on Tuesday.

“We can assure all other parties that these actions do not represent Tau Kappa Epsilon and the beliefs of love, charity, and esteem that we have stood by for 115 years."