Virulent Racism at Auburn Fraternities

photo: Some white Auburn fraternity brothers yuk it up over a mock lynching

Two all-white fraternities at Auburn, Delta Sigma Phi and Beta Theta Pi, have been temporarily suspended by University administration [AU] for vicious racial hatred at this year’s Halloween party [SPLC]. Costumes included a hooded and robed Klansman, several white students in blackface, some wearing the shirts of a national Black fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, and one wearing blackface and a noose around his neck. Pictures included posed scenes of lynching and police brutality (all of the frat boys have big stupid grins on their faces–ha ha ha, genocide is really fucking funny, boys). I have known for a long time that the white fraternities at Auburn, and elsewhere, are some of the most reactionary networks on campus. There have been repeated problems from the fraternities for years in terms of racist, homophobic, and sexist discrimination, as well as a long record of repeated sexual violence against women. But this–this took me by surprise. And it disgusts me that anyone would feel like Auburn is a community that tolerates this shit.

I should note that despite the casual use of Southern hate imagery (the Dixie flag, the Klansman robes, the noose) this is not at all a unique problem of the South or rednecks out here as opposed to the Clean Livin’ Folk over yonder North of the Mason-Dixon line. On the contrary: the supposedly progressive liberal arts school that I spent a year in up north was marked by racial hate incidents several times within recent memory. I personally remember a student showing up in Black costume to a Halloween party (nothing as horrible as this, but still unsettling); the previous year a Black student had his bed set on fire shortly after receiving an anonymous letter stating that the college had a No-Nigger Policy. I am disgusted with what has happened here in Auburn, but I could only wish that the world were so well off that this would be a unique event or something that only happened in the South. In reality, racism is a social disease that pervades the entire country, not just us rednecks down here in Alabama.

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Take action!

Please send polite and carefully-considered e-mails to Vice President for Student Affairs Wes Williams and Interim President William F. Walker urging them to take this hate incident seriously by ensuring that the individuals who committed it and the fraternities who hosted it are severely punished, urging them to permanently dissolve the local chapters of Beta Theta Pi and Delta Sigma Phi. Further, politely but firmly ask them to make sure that their response to this incident include a careful look at the broader racial environment at Auburn and that concrete new programs be implemented to address racism in the Auburn University community.

29 replies to Virulent Racism at Auburn Fraternities Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. John

    First of all what has happened to the freedom of speech and expression. It has been guaranteed by the US Constitution and therefore should be looked upon as such. These have done nothing wrong unless you call expressing themselves wrong. There is no law violation and it only applies to whites. Michael Jackson dresses up like a white and no fuss is made over it. What’s the problem.

  2. Erin Harris

    The constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression under the terms that it will not cause a “breach of peace or cause violence” (taken from the Legal Information Institute). What those students did was not only insulting and provoking, but even more a mockery of the African American race. If the African American Students on that campus weren’t so civilized, mature, and adult about the situation it would have caused riots and a breach of peace, along with violence, no doubt in my mind. It takes comments and opinions of people like John’s to show how uninformed the American society or White society can be. As far as Michael Jackson he had a skin disease which caused his skin pigmentation to change. If you insist on using Michael Jackson as a poor example, then why not ban White girls and guys from getting TANS? Who exactly are these people who get darker skin through tanning beds trying to be like?? Just something to think about!

· June 2003 ·

  1. LP

    Just want your opinion on this. While I believe that what these Frat boys did was disgusting, I do have to agree that it is a sick form of free speech. You say the constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression under the terms that it will not cause a “breach of peace or cause violence?” So do you think war protesters which, ironically, have gotten violent or incited violence, no longer should be given a voice? I disagree with them, but the have the right. Do you think incredibly violent rap music, which has many documented cases of illiciting a violent attitude, and is in many cases hateful to the white race, asians, hispanics, and others, should be banned? Well I dont either. What about violent movies? I could go on and on.

    My question is then, is free speech only a guaranteed right to those who believe in the “right” or politically correct or popular thing? When some one’s expression of their opinion infuriates a group, all of the sudden they dont have that right of expression any more? When the Dixie Chicks got boycotted and pulled off of radio stations across the country, after voicing their questionable opinion, they immediately started saying that they were just expressing their right to free speech. Well, those people that boycotted them and pulled them from the air also were expressing their right to free speech. However, they suddenly became the “redneck, closed minded idiots” who didnt believe in free speech.

    No, my final point is, where do you draw the line? I think you have to draw certain lines when it comes to public, ie government, run entities such as non private primary schools, courtrooms, etc. What is your opinion here? Who has the right to decide what is and is not free speech?

· September 2003 ·

  1. Zach Alsobrook

    I despise racism and bigotry. Thus, I hate the organizations that sponsor prejudice. The Auburn Students were definitely out of line for dressing in such inappropriate dress. Yet, they should not be punished in any way whatsoever. They are absolutely free to dress as ignorantly as they want. I hate all racist organizations that disguise themselves in positive missions. Under this category I would group the Ku Klux Klan, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and perhaps above all, the American Civil Liberties Union. I’m a white male. Would you be angry if I chose to dress up in a NAACP African Robe. Of course not. Explain to me the difference….

· October 2003 ·

  1. JD

    I am a Delta Sig from the University of North Texas and I came across this article in my free time. NEVER have I seen such poor judgement in a Delta Sig. I am apalled by this and I am ashamed to realize I share a bond with men with such poor judgement. The gentlemanly ideals of Delta Sigma Phi preach tolerance and unity. My chapter of 40 men includes 3 men of Arab descent, 4 hispanic men, 3 Asian Americans, and 5 African Americans. Our diversity is what makes Delta Sig the best damn Fraternity on our campus and hopefully this chapter will be resurrected with better guidance in the future.

— 2004 —

  1. Rad Geek

    “LP” asks the musical question: “While I believe that what these Frat boys did was disgusting, I do have to agree that it is a sick form of free speech. … My question is then, is free speech only a guaranteed right to those who believe in the “right” or politically correct or popular thing?”

    There is something of a social disease going around, abetted by unreflective people on both the Right and the Left, of confusing (1) freedom from violent interference with speech with (2) freedom from social consequences of speech. They are actually two very different things; (1) is an absolute requirement of any humane politic, whereas (2) is something that no-one actually believes in, although many cite it in moments of hypocritical opportunism. Of course Auburn University fraternity brothers have every right, under the First Amendment (and the Fourteenth, which extends those protections at the state as well as the federal level) to parade around in whatever horrendously offensive, idiotic, stupid costumes that they want. But they don’t have a right not to be called out on their horrendously offensive, idiotic, stupid behavior. And they also don’t have a right to demand that Auburn University continue to offer educational services to them when they make it very clear that they are not interested in contributing to an intelligent, respectful, and humane academic community. “Free speech” arguments are not at issue here: nobody suggested that they be arrested or thrown in jail or otherwise punished by the law. Freedom of speech prohibits the use of government force against peaceful acts of expression; it does not oblige private individuals or organizations to keep doing business with people who do and say abhorrent things, and it does NOT require institutions of higher learning to continue offering services to those who insult, harass, and degrade fellow members of the campus community.

    Of course, you might point out that Auburn is a tax-funded institution, and since tax money is being spent to operate it, its operations have to be governed by the First Amendment. That’s true; but it is at most a reason to work for the autonomy of Auburn from government funding, not a reason for Auburn not to take reasonable disciplinary actions for the health of the campus community. Writing a terrible essay or paying someone to write one for you are both activities protected under the First Amendment, but it’s not incumbent on Auburn University not to give you an F or suspend you.

    That doesn’t mean that there aren’t something like free speech protections that are especially important in a University setting. The issue here is not freedom of speech (since Universities cannot censor you in the first place) but rather academic freedom. The princple of academic freedom is that a good University fosters an environment where a variety of opinions are vigorously argued and where students and faculty are engaged with, not ostracized, even if they hold unpopular views. (This is, again, not an issue of rights; it is an issue of what makes a good academic community. Justice is not the only virtue, but it is the only enforceable virtue.)

    But it should be obvious as soon as this is set out that this is not an issue of academic freedom! The Delta Sig and Beta boys weren’t debating any position or arguing with anything. “Academic freedom” only applies in a particular form of discourse–academic argument–and only within the context of certain standards of scholarship, argument, and charitable respect for one’s fellows. Yelling “Nigger!” on the Quad is not a matter of academic freedom; and neither is this.

  2. Discussed at

    Geekery Today:

    The Context of Racism at Auburn Fraternities

    An Auburn fraternity brother dresses as a member of the Ku Klux Klan for Halloween [The incident of AU fraternity members wearing Ku Klux Klan costumes for Halloween] could portray Auburn as a racist community. I do not believe…

  3. Discussed at

    Geekery Today:

    One Down, One To Go… – Beta Theta Pi dissolved in Frat Racism Scandal

    The national board of Beta Theta Pi has announced that it will be suspending and indefinitely dissolving its Auburn chapter [link courtesy of the ever-awesome Max] in response to the fracas over racist hate imagery at the local chapter’s Halloween…

  4. Discussed at

    Geekery Today:

    And the other shoe drops – Delta Sigma Phi Dissolved in Frat Racism Scandal

    In response to the racist hate imagery at Halloween party, Auburn University has revoked its recognition of the local chapter Delta Sigma Phi [AU], and the national board of directors of Delta Sigma Phi voted to dissolve the local chapter….

  5. Discussed at

    Geekery Today:

    And the other shoe drops – Delta Sigma Phi Dissolved in Frat Racism Scandal

    In response to the racist hate imagery at Halloween party, Auburn University has revoked its recognition of the local chapter Delta Sigma Phi [AU], and the national board of directors of Delta Sigma Phi voted to dissolve the local chapter….

  6. mike

    u stupid idiot….don’t u see the difference between wrong and right?….jackson has a medical condition that caused him to use plastic surgery…white boys need to be white and thats all…don’t stir up what u can’t end up defending with a just reason.

  7. adam szab

    I think that what they did is nothing wrong and would be proud to be in their fraternity

— 2005 —

  1. joel

    yes i guess it is freedom of speech that these people are allowed to have. The same freedom of speech that KKK and neo-nazis also are allowed. THe sick thing is that people like you and others in this group can not look beyond ones skin color before they judge them. You racist assholes are exactly what is holding this country back. If it was up to me I would make an amendment stating that all freedom of speech is allowed, except for when it is racist.

— 2006 —

  1. patrick

    Look-although their more violent acts (involving nooses, klan robes, etc.) are disgusting, I don’t see how dressing up black is such a horribly racist thing to do on halloween. Furthermore, I’m really sick and tired of all this crap of how every other thing a white male does in this country is seen as racist. I’m a middle-class white male who grew up in South Carolina and everyday, people take my offhand comments and actions as racist because of who I am. If you’re going to accuse these boys of being racist (which they are), let’s not be colorblind in those accusations and let’s try to recognize that there is a lot of racism against whites in this country as well. I also attend Auburn University and can assure you that any incidents involving racism coming from Auburn’s campus are isolated and are despised by the rest of the student body. I hate racism as much as the next person, but let’s try to use some restraint when we’re labeling people.

  2. the photographer

    I was the photographer at the Delta Sig party. Yes, It was pretty disgusting and I did not want to take the photos out of personal objection, but I was contracted to do as such (minus nudity and obscenity).

    I do not believe that the frats should have been banned for the dressing up of a few at the halloween parties. What they SHOULD have been banned for was the common source of alcohol (and just alcohol ON campus) as well as firearms on campus, both of which are violations on Auburn grounds.

    If anyone would like to talk about this privately, reply and I will discuss this further, off the record. Just leave an email here and I will reply.

  3. doesn't matter

    based upon what you just said, you are clearly a racist. you need to get over that race stuff

— 2007 —

  1. Tim Hayes

    It’s pretty fucked up that these kids would so blatently cross the line. It’s also pretty disturbing to know that some of these kids are members of Delta Sig.

  2. Candace

    This is beyond appalling. I am a member of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority at the University of Michigan-Flint; if we were ever, EVER, EVER caught doing something so racially disparaging or encouraging true cultural ignorance/hate, I would expect our chapter to not only be shut down, but I would expect a lawsuit. I would expect this for any fraternity or sorority who pulled the same crap. How is this any better than the gentlemen from the Borat film? ‘Oh, they’re having fun’, my ass. This is not having fun, this is inciting a riot and killing any type of common ground black, white, latino, asian fraternities and sororities would ever have together. What the hell is wrong with these people? I am proud that our fraternities have men from all different ethnic backgrounds, but gay/straight as well. This kind of stunt blurs the goodness that Greeks try to create. I am sincerely sorry for any person who was emotionally harmed or bothered by this stunt, and I truly hope that these men face the real music when it comes to judging them. I hope they face the full penalty allowed.

  3. shaunte

    the problem is not only did they took a giant leap backwards with their racist insinuations, they degraded another fraternity doing so. i know that it is a no-no to wear the letters of another organization that you didn’t work to get into, so i don’t understand what made these guys wear the letters of Omega Psi Phi. the founders of that organization took a leap of courage in starting their organization in 1911, how dare they make a mockery of what some people hold so dear?

  4. Kim

    Well the good ole body system of the South still exists and to say that these young white males are not exhibiting racists view and propaganda is obsurd! To imply that this type of apparent racist memorabilia is freedom of expression and speach should be another reminder of how some people are insensitive of others and that the United States has a long way to go in regard to race relations. These boys are doing what they wanted to do; ridiculing and exacerbating a volitile time in our history with mockery. When are you going to realize that just because you or your family were not mistreated does not mean that it’s ok to mistreat others? There can never be a world with only one race of people in it; please get over yourself and realize that this country is not yours alone and other people of different ethnic groups will exist here

  5. Fraternity Alumni

    I guess this is more of an update of what’s happened now more than anything else. Our alumni stepped in and took care of the situation shortly after this event took place. For the record, the gentlemen in the photo were pledges, not brothers. The story that no one was told was that they were required to leave the party and change but of course only after the photographs were taken.( I believe they can be seen in normal dress later within the pictures) Obviously, these pledges did not become permanent members of our chapter. Our chapter was not banned nor charter revoked due impart to the injunction of the alumni and our actions that immediately followed. Shortly after we took a number of steps to shape the future of our chapter at Auburn. We adopted a no alchol policy amoung many other policies and instituted educational mandates to aid us in candidate and member selection

    Ironically enough, Our chapter at Auburn was the first “white” fraternity to have minority membership (along with Farmhouse) and this occured long before this event took place at a much more sensitive and non-accepting time among Southern fraternities. I stil remember to this day encountering a stigma among other predominately “white” fraternities as being a “black” fraternity. So when this happened, it really caught all of the alumni off guard because there easily could of been a number of different fraternities at Auburn that this could of happened at much easier. It just didn’t seem like something like this could of happened here given the history in place. Perhaps there lies the problem with this entire situation. If it were amoung a handful of other fraternities that I could name at Auburn or nationwide that have “that” reputation, it would of been written off. I would like to think that this type of intolerance will never happen again, but the truth is that it continues to happen at most Southern universities. The only thing I can say without a doubt is that it won’t ever happen again at this fraternity and we are better men because of it.

— 2008 —

  1. The Truth

    Bascially heres a few words of wisdom. I’m coming all da way from England and i can assure you that what they have done is racist. Dressing up as black on halloween is not a normal halloween costume. Don’t you agree? So why did they choose to do it if it was not a racist act. And also i would like point out that they had string around there necks, now what point where they trying to prove. Now I know you white people think us blacks are racist towards you now but honestly you should be happy that blacks have never really retaliated with violence after all the racism and slavery.Now how would you feel if all of your ancestors were put through that, so please don’t try and accuse of being racist because honestly atleast 80% of the white race is racist.

  2. Hater...

    All of the people who dont see anything wrong with this is a fukin Racist Dik head. You people need to get a life and except that there are other colours than white in this world. This is clearly an act of racism and some of you are so ignorant to see past that fact.

    I hate racist people and Blacks have been through so much over the years and have come through out of all of it.

    Everyone is saying that you have the right to express your feelings well…

    Fuck you all and i seriouly hate all the people who are racist.

    Blacks created loads of things that you ‘white’ people like anyways..!!

  3. bryant

    I am a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon here in NY and I live in CT i was considering transferring to Auburn as I’ve grown up admiring its sports program though now I am seriously reconsidering this transfer is this truly the atmosphere directed toward ethnicities there? I am an American my ancestors were from India if I were to transfer would a brother truly be rejected based on skin color? Would there be an unspoken ban on minorities joining Greek life? Maybe I’m looking to deep in to this picture maybe I’m not taking it seriously enough either way this has really made me second guess my transfer.

  4. Dave

    Hater, or whatever your name is, you are a racist. Quoting you, “Blacks created loads of things that you ‘white’ people like anyways.!!” What the fuck is that? That is racist. Black people can say whatever the fuck they want in society and get away with it, but when a white man does something, then it’s a hate crime. I agree that what the frats did is wrong, but don’t ever generalize about another race… By the way, other races have been through just as much as the african american culture. ever heard of the jews? read a book, dude.

  5. hmm

    Yes, we all have freedom of ignorance. That’s what freedom of speech basically is.But the real problem regarding race relations in America is everyone is too busy playing the blame game. No one wants to take any responsibility. Blacks have carried around anger, which turned into bitter resentment, for not only the past, but of things still going on today. That anger has resulted in harsh rap lyrics, vulgar slanders towards white, and a mass acceptance that most whites aren’t trustworthy. The blacks state of anger and outspoken nature towards whites has caused yet another backlash. Whites have begun to feel as though they are the victims, where they feel somewhat inprisoned being that “blacks can say whatever the hell they want” and has thus created their own mass of anger and bitterness.

    No one has the right to mock a time when thousands were killed merely because of their skin or religious background. This picture is not a question of lawfully right, bur moral injustice. It is a sickning and most offensive gesture, not merely the “black face” but the noose around the neck. Anyone who doesn’t see the danger in this image has a deep seeded problem.

    It’s time we all stop pointing the finger, and start trying to heal the pains of the past and cope with the steuggles of the future.

    All races, all religions, all nationalities have problems and misguided people. The more we hold onto the anger, the more the problem will continue.

    There is a black man running for president, sadly, many have ADMITTED they would never vote for a black man, simply because he is black. It doesn’t matter that the man is educated, well spoken, with a clean record. No, being black in some eyes is still a disease. So no matter how you try to justify your anger, rather white or black, this land we live on isn’t rightfully ANY of ours. We should be more focused on bringing the racial gap.

    I applaud all minorities who don’t let the prejudice and unjustices of this world get in the way of having a positive future. I applaud all non minorities who live life with the concept that 2 wrongs don’t make a right, by being a hypocrite and simply “complaining” about the problems in society , but who actually try and make a difference.

    To all others, please get over yourself. No one owes you anything, rather white or black.

  6. 007

    Firstly, blacks haven’t had to overcome a thing, other than the same garbage they dish out as the white people do.

    Blacks act as if they’ve just been shipped over here from the mother-land. Everything is racist! We’ve had to overcome so much, yadda yadda yadda!

    You guys are no better or worse than whites are, so please stop acting as if you deserve more, because everyone is treated as equal as the next person. Our ancestors dreamed of living in a time such as today. We should be proud, instead of using their trials and tribulations to only benefit ourselves. Please. It’s over and done with.

    Places like Auburn (and I’ve been through that godawful town before and it’s the biggest backwoods college town in America), are the white version of the ghetto. Black people are racist; white people are racist. And then there are people like us who quite frankly see a white/black person in the same light. It’s nothing compared to 60 years ago, so let’s get over it and move on with our lives.

    If racism was still present (the way most imply) we STILL wouldn’t have a black president today. NEWS FLASH: WE HAVE ONE!

    Slavery is long gone. And if you don’t know a thing about your ancestor, you don’t have the right to bring it up, just to try and better your own life as a black person

    And this is all coming from A PROUD AFRICAN-AMERICAN!

— 2012 —

  1. southernjock

    To 007, Not everyone in this country is treated fairly. I do not know what planet you’re living on. Your ancestors indeed, lived for a day where they could be treate equal. Well just because, black americans can sit in the same classroom and use the same restrooms as whites, does not make the USA, a paradise. Let us discuss school systems and access to equal eduacation. Do you actually believe an inner city school in Detroit has the same equal standards, funding, curriculum as those in the suburbs? Do black Americans have equal pay as their white counterparts? Do women (black or white) have equal salary and treated equal as their male counterparts? Of course not. The political and cultural term is “U.S. American”, not African American. We are all born and raised in this culture and nation. No we do not have an African American president. He is bi-racial, if that is such a think. Race does not exhist in nature. We are all 99.9% biologically the same. The only difference is our sex (male/female). Just because a U.S. American of color is in the white house, does not mean everything is ok and everyone is treated equal. Slavery is not long gone. People in the USA still work slave labor for slave pay. Remember, their were people of color (black) serving in 1870, when Jim Crow laws were still in fashion. Now, were they treated equal then? No. My point is, because we have President Obama as our nations leader, still does not mean racism, bigotry, classism, sexism, etc does not exhist. So before you question someone elses knowledge of his or her ancestral history, make sure you know yours also. This is coming from a proud U.S. American who just happens to be labeled “white”.

— 2015 —

  1. P

    I’ve read comments saying Freedom of Speech however no one has said what the Fraternity was saying. What did the Fraternity want everyone to know?

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