As many of you may know by now, over the weekend a fraternity at Arizona State University held an off-campus party that made the news, and with good reason. Approximately fifty students took part in a party that mocked African Americans. The fraternity in question was already in trouble, having been placed on probation.
We’ve been waiting to see what the university administration decided to do. I’ve heard no one defend the event; I’ve heard many people deplore it, and rightly so. However, it seemed inappropriate given my position to comment on the event on this blog while the university administration investigated the incident, interviewed participants, and spoke to other groups, including the national offices of the fraternity in question.
This evening ASU announced that the fraternity in question would no longer be part of the ASU community. The administration has not decided upon its course of action toward the students. Some people argue that they should be expelled; others look for a different approach to deal with the question of why students would behave this way. There’s also been a debate on whether addressing the behavior of the students violates their First Amendment rights.
Engaged as I have been in private discussions about how to respond to this incident and what ASU needs to do to address the matter and the issues it raises, you’ll understand that I’m not going to blog in detail about the matter, any more than I would blog about cases I have to address as chair of the university’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure or various administrative decisions concerning personnel. My colleagues, my friends, and my students know how I feel about this ugly incident. I find it deplorable and disgusting when anyone endorses racism and promotes or practices prejudice.
No doubt this matter will circulate in some corners of the blogosphere (I’m sure I need not name names), where it will be used as a weapon to attack me … and not to express concern about racism or racial prejudice. That’s understandable, since we all know what those folks think and feel about issues of diversity, multiculturalism, and racism. There’s no need for me to pay attention to them: the task at hand is to confront what happened at ASU, and to promote the principles and practices that address such deplorable attitudes and behavior as we go about the business of educating our students.