Student government calls for dialogue at Duke

Feb. 07, 2013 @ 05:39 PM

The student government at Duke University is calling on the campus community to “ensure that all students can enjoy a Duke experience free from marginalization” in the wake of a fraternity party that many have called racist.

A unanimous resolution approved by the student government Thursday urges Duke student groups “to be responsible and respectful in social gatherings and events and denounces racism, sexism, and cultural insensitivity in all forms.”

The resolution came after a flurry of protests spurred by an invitation to a party held by Kappa Sigma that was called “Asia Prime” and mimicked exaggerated stereotypical Asian speech. The party’s name was later changed to “International Relations” in response to student complaints, but photos of the event posted on social media sites showed mostly white students wearing conical hats, sumo wrestler costumes and geisha outfits.

Many Asian students, outraged by the invitation and the party, put up fliers around campus and held a rally against racism Wednesday that attracted more than 200 students.

“No longer can the social norms of this university be determined by a small group of people,” said Ting-Ting Zhou, the president of the Asian Students Association at Duke. “We must re-establish fairness and equality on this campus.”

Other students, Zhou said at the protest, “can pretend to be Asian for this one night, for this one party, but I have to be Asian my whole life. This trivializes me. This makes me feel like less than a human being.”

Operations of the local chapter of Kappa Sigma have been suspended by the fraternity’s national organization following the notoriety the party received. The national group is investigating the chapter for potential violation of the code of conduct of the fraternity.

The university administration is also continuing an investigation of the chapter, which until last year had operated off-campus. However, Larry Moneta, Duke’s vice president of student affairs, said it is not clear if the fraternity violated any specific university rules or regulations.

“That doesn’t mean what they did was in any way acceptable,” Moneta said. “But we will continue to investigate and continue to work with the campus community to continue the dialogue and improve the climate.”

The student government resolution also called for the “continual pursuit of additional avenues of dialogue and modes of accountability.”

Alex Swain, the student government president, said her organization “has been working with the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life … to foster accountability and racial sensitivity on campus.”

The meetings, she said, are designed to explore “options such as a Greek pledge and increased accountability measures to insure racial inclusion. We are also supporting student groups, such as the Asian Student Alliance and the Black Student Alliance, in the creation of a racial sensitivity training program.”

The hope, Swain added, is that “these steps will increase understanding between groups on campus.”