Clemson fraternity’s activities suspended following controversial party

December 9th, 2014 by Staff

A photo taken from the fraternity's 'Merry Cripmas' party.

(KSLA 12 NEWS) CLEMSON, S.C. – Clemson University’s president is calling for students to come together and support one another after photos of a student-organized party ignited racial tensions on social media.

Photos posted on Instagram and other social media platforms Saturday night depicted party goers displaying hand signals and dressed as gang members.

A caption on one photo read “Merry Cripmas to all.”

Students said the party goers pictured were satirizing the Crips gang based in California.

“Not only [do the images] mock street gangs, but minority students are concerned that this is a direct response to peaceful rallies on campus,” one student wrote in an e-mail to FOX Carolina.

“This is hurtful to all students and shows that Clemson’s environment is not entirely inclusive, as the media portrays it to be,” the student continued.

Sunday morning, Clemson University President James Clements sent an e-mail to students referencing the party and other recent events on campus and calling the events “discouraging.”

Clements said he would be hosting several events early next year “to foster productive discussion and unity” at the university.

Below is the full e-mail:

At a time of year when our thoughts are turning to family, holidays and the start of a new year – all the things that unite us and bring us joy — it is discouraging that so many events and issues are causing division and hurt, and making many students feel unwanted at this great university. It hurts to read disrespectful and just plain mean comments in social media. Last night’s “Cripmas” party, which the university did not sanction, raised more concerns about the campus climate. Clemson is better than this.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion about events in Ferguson, Staten Island and the protest rallies that those events have spawned. Great universities are built on the free expression and exploration of ideas. But the free expression of opinion must not cross the line and become harassment or intimidation, just as rallies and protest marches must not cross the line to lawlessness.

Our core values – honesty, integrity and respect – must be more than just words. I plan to host a series of events in early 2015 to foster productive discussion and unity that includes a broad segment of the campus – and I hope that I can count on your active participation.

In the meantime, please be supportive of each other during this busy and sometimes stressful season.

Many students and others reacted to the photos on social media using the hashtags “#MerryCripmas” and “#Cripmas.”
One post circulating on social media urged students to write “#MerryCripmas” on a piece of paper, write how it made them feel, and asked the students to join a march to deliver the papers to the president’s door.

“Why be so openly ignorant?” One person asked on social media. “You would think people would at least have some common sense/ courtesy.”

While numerous social media posts expressed anger and hurt about the concept and the photos, other social media users didn’t see any ill intent. Some questioned whether or not the party goers intended to offend anyone.

“So let’s say you had a mafia themed party,” one user posted. “Would that be as socially bad as a gang themed party, or racist against Italians (?) I don’t think so, and they are the same thing.”

Another wrote “People need to stop being so (expletive) sensitive. And if this offends you, you’re probably part of the problem.”

Some people also criticized Clements’ e-mail response. One person tweeted “That statement from (Clements) was woefully inadequate. Woefully.”

Clements met with students who were concerned after the party and social media backlash Sunday morning at the Library Bridge to discuss the tensions on campus.

On Sunday night Sigma Alpha Epsilon announced that their advisory board and national headquarters have suspended all activity indefinitely. The university said most of the chapter’s officers resigned from their positions and have been suspended from the organization. 

Below is the full statement:

Sigma Alpha Epsilon, in a joint decision between chapter members at Clemson University, their alumni advisory board and the national headquarters, has suspended all activity indefinitely following an inappropriate theme party organized by several of its members at a private, off-campus residence. Most of the chapter’s top officers have resigned from their positions and additionally have been suspended from the organization. Any member who attended the event may face suspension as well, pending the results of internal investigation.

The decision of a few brothers to hold this type of social event is inexcusable and completely inappropriate. Furthermore, their behavior in no way reflects the values and creed of the fraternity, and we apologize to campus and local community for their actions because we teach our brothers to be leaders, scholars and, most importantly, gentlemen. The chapter’s leadership failed to uphold the stringent policies Sigma Alpha Epsilon maintains for social events as part of our health-and-safety program, and there are consequences for their poor decision-making. Interim chapter officers will work with their alumni advisory board to formulate a plan to re-establish the relationship between the chapter and the Clemson community.

A spokesperson from Clemson University said the school endorsed the group’s “swift and appropriate action.”

A Clemson spokesperson said any member who attended the party may also face suspension, pending the results of the ongoing internal investigation.

On Monday, the school’s Social Media Listening Center was tracking the trending topics related to the party, show a 72 percent negative response.

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