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Fraternity expelled over MLK-themed party

10:54 AM, Jan 24, 2014   |    comments
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Students walk on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, Ariz.



PHOENIX (The Arizona Republic)  -- Arizona State University severed ties with the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity Thursday night, only days after a party over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend depicting racial stereotypes drew harsh criticism from civil rights leaders.

The university released a statement saying it has notified the fraternity that its recognition as a fraternity chapter at ASU has been permanently revoked.

Revoking recognition means the 65-year-old local chapter is no longer affiliated with ASU. The group won't be listed on the university's website and cannot recruit members or hold meetings on campus.

ASU President Michael Crow said in the statement that the university's student code of conduct establishes behavior standards.

"At ASU, students who violate these standards will be subject to disciplinary sanctions in order to promote their own personal development, to protect the university community, and to maintain order and stability on our campuses," he said.

RELATED: First Amendment debate rages over Ariz. frat's behavior

ASU said the fraternity violated four provisions of the conduct code: engaging in discriminatory activities, violating alcohol rules, violating the terms of earlier disciplinary sanctions and off-campus conduct that may present a risk or danger.

University officials are still investigating and deciding how to handle individual cases of student discipline.

Over the holiday weekend, photos on social media depicted partygoers wearing stereotypical hip-hop clothes. The photos showed people wearing saggy pants and posing with hollowed-out watermelon cups.

The images drew a swift reaction from civil rights leaders, who demanded the university expel the fraternity. At the time of the party, the fraternity was on university probation for a fight in November 2012, when police reports say fraternity members confronted a rival fraternity member, who was African American, and beat him up. He suffered a broken jaw, concussion and cuts.

The Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a local civil-rights leader, said the university's decision to cut ties with the fraternity meets the first of three demands. The civil-rights leaders also want students disciplined, and they want the university to take steps to create a "more accepting environment" for all students.

Maupin applauded university officials, saying, "They did the right thing to defend the legacy of Dr. King and to say to the nation and to the state, and everyone who is watching, that there is a zero-tolerance policy for racism and discrimination at Arizona State University."

Civil rights leaders threatened to boycott the university's athletics and a fund-raising campaign to rebuild Sun Devil Stadium unless their demands are met. The incident has drawn national publicity, with CNN's Anderson Cooper featured it on his "Ridiculist" segment where he asked "Whatever happened to the good, old-fashioned toga party?"

This is the second time in less than a year that ASU has expelled a fraternity chapter. In June, ASU revoked recognition of Sigma Alpha Epsilon after a member nearly drank himself to death. Earlier that same school year, a pledge was found dead in the river.

In a statement issued earlier this week, a spokesman for the national Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, apologizing for "any offensive actions that a few of our members might have participated in."

"Tau Kappa Epsilon does not condone or support any actions by its members that would be defined as racist, discriminatory and/or offensive," spokesman Alex Baker said in the statement.

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