ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – A Washington University fraternity has been suspended after a Tuesday incident where members of its pledge class allegedly hurled racial slurs at a group of African-American students. The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity will have all activities halted until a university investigation is complete.
The incident happened in the Bear’s Den dining facility in what’s referred to as the “South 40” section of campus.
Witness accounts published by Washington University’s Student Life newspaper say the African-American students were having dinner when a small group of SAE members approached and took a photo of them.
The fraternity members then reportedly returned with a larger group of people, and broke into a rap song that contained repeated use of the “n-word.”
“It pains me. It makes me feel very sad. It also makes me very angry,” Wash-U Vice Chancellor of Students, Sharon Stahl, said in an interview Wednesday evening. “It was offensive. It’s not what’s tolerated in our community. We’re a very diverse community and an inclusive community.”
Stahl sent an email reiterating those points to the student body Tuesday afternoon.
Fox 2 tried to reach SAE chapter president Mike Zissman for comment. In an email, he declined to be interviewed.
But on a public Facebook forum for Washington University students, he apologized repeatedly to one poster who expressed concerns about the incident.
“First and above all, I want to apologize,” Zissman wrote to the student. “This type of action is detestable and completely unacceptable. I apologize both personally and on behalf of my Fraternity, and promise you this will NEVER happen again.”
A sense of outrage is prevalent among students online, and those we spoke to as well.
“I was really upset to hear about it and I was kind of shocked,” senior Brittany Tokasey said of the incident. “It’s not something that usually goes on at this campus and never something I’ve heard about in the four years I’ve been here.”
The story has made national headlines, being picked up by the Huffington Post and a college oriented website called brobbible.com, which has a lengthy account of the incident from a person they describe as “a tipster.” Fox 2 couldn’t verify the details of the story.
“That is definitely upsetting that people outside the area are hearing about it,” Tokasey said of the broader attention to the story.
Stahl, however, says what happened should and will bring about a conversation.
“If something like this happens we’re going to bring it out in the open, we’re going to talk about it and we’re going think about how can we move our community forward through discussing these issues.”