Wednesday, November 05, 2008

East TN Sig Eps Use "Blackface' at Party

Fraternity members disciplined for 'blackface' incident
Sigma Phi Epsilon conducted improperly managed Halloween party

Eileen Rush

Four to five members of ETSU fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon dressed in blackface at an improperly managed Halloween party on Oct. 25, and as a result the university is planning to take action against the fraternity.

Dean of Students Joe Sherlin called the blackface incident "offensive.""That's completely inconsistent with the values of ETSU, and of the fraternity," Dean of Students Joe Sherlin said in a phone interview on Nov. 4.

The dean of students said that the Office of Greek Life contacted the fraternity's leadership last week as soon as they heard about the party, and the incident.

Sigma Phi Epsilon President Alex Trickler did not return a phone call from the East Tennessean on Nov. 4.

More than 100 people attended the Oct. 25 party, located at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house.The fraternity took some steps to notify Greek Life administrators that the party would take place, Sherlin said, but they did not follow the guidelines for the party regarding security personnel.

Sherlin said that ETSU administrators were not taking this event lightly."It's not a minor incident," he said. "In no way do we view it as such."Individuals have the right to free speech, he said, so no legal action will be taken - however, the manner in which the four to five fraternity members were dressed was "highly insensitive," Sherlin said.

Current disciplinary actions are centered on the fact that the party was not conducted according to Greek Life guidelines."From the information we have at this point, the fraternity had not followed the guidelines or rules for the event," Sherlin said.

As for the incident of the students dressed in blackface, an Interfraternity Council hearing will take place within a week.

Sherlin said he has also contacted the national chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and the fraternity will also be taking its own disciplinary actions."The national has expressed a strong desire to work with us … to promote greater sensitivity and understanding," Sherlin said.

From now, university administration is moving forward and gathering information. A result of the blackface incident will be diversity and sensitivity training for Sigma Phi Epsilon, and Sherlin said he plans on developing a long-term plan to keep incidents like this one from happening in the future.

The university's 16 other Greek organizations will likely also receive diversity and sensitivity training.For further coverage, keep up with the East Tennessean's future online and print editions.