A fraternity at the University of Maryland is under investigation after a private email containing racially-insensitive language was leaked on social media.
Members of the Tau Beta Chapter of Tau Epsilon Phi sent messages to each other via email regarding plans for what they term “welcome week.” One specific respondent tells fellow members of the group conversation that if they decide to partake in extra curricular activities such as partying, “black girls are 78.45% easier on this holiday.” The holiday which the respondent is referring to – MLK Day – is the same holiday being celebrated when this email was allegedly written on January 19th.
The emails first surfaced on a social media account known as UMD Social Justice under the name, @UMD_SJC.
University spokesperson Crystal Brown tells Pulsefeedz that UMD was made aware of the situation via Twitter yesterday and that an investigation was underway being led by the Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Brown says the university recently launched a series of “open and honest conversations” being held across campus about race and ethnicity aimed at fostering a more inclusive environment.
“In addition to being hurtful and offensive, the email communication does not reflect the values of our community,” Brown said.
Matt Supple, director of the Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life, tells Pulsefeedz they immediately contacted chapter leadership after learning of the situation and “forwarded the matter to the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct.” Supple also says that DFSL is not in a position to discipline a student for the exchange of private email but is investigating “the larger culture within the chapter.” Any disciplinary decisions will be made by the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct.
“We believe this incident is deeply problematic. We are working with the leadership of the Interfraternity Council to identify how the IFC will respond to this most recent incident, given the Kappa Sigma email last year. We are also working with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to identify possible educational interventions for Tau Epsilon Phi.”
Supple also confirmed @UMD_SJC’s allegation that this email was sent during the same time period when the chapter was reactivated on campus.
Email sent the same semester they were allowed to recharter at UMD after being suspended. Probably some rethinking to do about that decision
— UMD Social Justice (@UMD_SJC) February 8, 2016
It is unknown why these emails, sent on January 2015, were leaked at this time. Stories Beneath The Shell, a student publication at the University of Maryland, spoke with two of the writers corresponding in this message. One writer simply told UMD SBS that he graduated while the other refused to comment.
In 2010, the fraternity was suspended by the University after allegations of hazing, alcohol use and drugs according to The Diamondback. At the time, TEP’s national headquarters suspended the organization from holding social events or recruiting. Comedian and UMD alum Larry David is one of the fraternity’s most prominent members. Pulsefeedz has reached out to TEP’s national chapter for comment but they have yet to respond.
Supple also tells Pulsefeedz that the fraternity has released a statement “condemning the email and stating it is inconsistent with their values.” Pulsefeedz reached out to TEP’s local chapter but they refused to comment on the matter.
Monday’s leaked email caused a storm of reaction from some of UMD’s students on Twitter.
According to that leaked email black girls at UMD are 78.45% easier on MLK day.
— Yaya (@Heartinzion) February 8, 2016
white fraternities on campus get away with so much at the expense of women of color.
— sailor goon (@VIVALALYLES) February 8, 2016
another racist email from a UMD frat, great.
— soraya-sis (@sorayyrayy) February 8, 2016
Do these boys plan these ignorant emails every year or what?
— princess diana. (@SimbaFiasco_) February 8, 2016
CORRECTION: 78.45% of Frat Guys who send bigoted emails are less likely to get laid. https://t.co/lWh1TvuXtS
— The Rival At UMD (@TheRivalUMD) February 9, 2016
Here is more from the statement which Supple released to Pulsefeedz:
Within Greek Life, we have implemented a number of initiatives in the past year to increase our focus on diversity and inclusion:
- We hired a 10 hour/week graduate assistant focused on diversity and inclusion efforts
- We assigned one of the existing graduate assistants in our office a special project to focus solely on diversity and inclusion. His main project is to provide consultation to chapters as they plan their own multicultural competence program, which every chapter is required to complete
- We revamped the Presidents’ track curriculum during the Maryland Greek Leadership Conference (MGLC) to focus primarily on diversity and inclusion
- We hosted an overnight retreat focused on social justice and leadership for Greek students on November 14th and 15th
- We are currently teaching a 3 credit class on social justice for fraternity and sorority students
- We are working with ODI to provide direct consultation to chapters who have had diversity and inclusion incidents
- We will be implementing a 5-week pilot diversity and inclusion program with four chapters later this month
- We are requiring all chapters to complete multicultural competence, hazing prevention, sexual assault prevention, and alcohol/drug education programs for the 2015-2016 year
- We continue to work with staff from ODI and MICA to discuss collaborations and use their expertise to address long-term goals
- We have embarked on a long-term research project, led by Dr. Jennifer Wessel (professor in the Psychology Dept.), to assess the multicultural competence of fraternity and sorority students and better understand how these students develop over time in this area