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Duke students outraged over Asian-themed frat party

Posted February 6, 2013

— Asian student groups at Duke University have filed a formal complaint with the school after a fraternity hosted a weekend party with a theme that some consider racist.

The party, put on Friday by the university's chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, originally had an Asian theme, but it was changed to "international relations" after some students complained, according to Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president of student affairs.

However, pictures posted online show party-goers wearing Asian-style clothing, including a conical straw hat, and a party invite with the salutation, "Herro Nice Duke Peopre."

The Asian Students Association and the Asian American Alliance, on Wednesday, also held what they called "Race is Not a Party: Rally for an Inclusive Duke".

"The events of the past week have deeply hurt students in our community," the groups wrote on Facebook. "We won't use our platform to alienate, to provide more fodder for stereotypes about Duke, or to trivialize any person's experience. Instead, we will use this opportunity to spread awareness of why the events of the past week were hurtful and to establish a concrete plan for how our community can move forward."

Several hundred students attended the rally, in which they called for an apology in the form of action from Kappa Sigma – specifically for each fraternity member to participate in a community social justice project. They also called for a Group Bias Incident Task Force made up of leaders from student organizations representing "historically marginalized groups" on campus to respond to discriminatory actions by student groups.

Duke frat under scrutiny after party Duke frat under scrutiny after party

"You hurt us when you made fun of our accent, when you wrote 'Herro Duke' in your invitation," Duke senior Tony Gouw said. "You were not just mocking an accent, you were mocking an immigrant's struggle to make it in this nation."

The Asian Students Association and Duke Student Government have also planned a forum for 7:30 p.m. about the matter. Students from Kappa Sigma are expected to attend.

Moneta said administrators learned of the party after they saw the invitations, and they asked Kappa Sigma to cancel the off-campus event. He said the university is now considering what action it might take against the fraternity.

"This is less about discipline and sanctions and more about education," Moneta said. "Humor at the expense of others is not humor, and entertainment at the expense of others is not entertainment."

Mitchell Wilson, executive director of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, said Wednesday that the organization is aware of the party and is investigating.

In the meantime, he said, all activities at the Duke chapter have been suspended until the investigation is complete.

"The Kappa Sigma Fraternity finds that the actions which have been associated with this event are inappropriate and insensitive, and Kappa Sigma does not condone such activity," he said. "This matter will be investigated, and the fraternity will address this matter in an appropriate fashion."

A fraternity spokesman at Duke could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Chapter President Luke Keohane, however, apologized in an article published by The Chronicle, Duke's independent student newspaper.

"Upon learning of the deeply damaging effects of our email to our fellow students, we should have completely canceled the aforementioned party," Keohane said, according to the newspaper. "The Duke Community in which we exist is one that we see too often as divided, and while our actions have brought attention to and widened that divide, it is our sincere intention to work to contribute to a United Duke."

The Asian student groups have the support of several other campus student groups, including the Black Student Alliance, the Center for Race Relations and the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Controversy over racial insensitivity isn't new for the university.

In November, Duke women's lacrosse coach Kerstin Kimel apologized after photos from a Halloween party at her house showing a player in black-face were posted on the school's athletic department's website.

At the party, a group of juniors dressed up as characters from "The Little Rascals" comedy movies. The player who dressed as "Buckwheat" painted her face black for the party. The photo appeared on GoDuke.com along with a player's blogpost, but it was quickly removed.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Hans Feb 7, 2013

    "Im offended that they are offended, it's a fraternity, an AMERICAN Tradition. It's what we do and did in a fraternity and hope we will continue to do" - Fun

    Sounds a lot how folks thought about slavery once upon a time.

  • BaseBallMommy Feb 7, 2013

    I am so tired of everyone being offended at everything!!! This is a little ridulous to me and I hope people realize that just because they were throwing an asian themed party doens;t mean they are makin gfun of you. For years there has been toga parties and you never heard of the greeks being offended. Just let people have good clean fun!

  • anews77 Feb 7, 2013

    can someone tell me exactly what these students did that was so offensive?...

  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Feb 7, 2013

    Native NC gal..


  • Native NC gal Feb 7, 2013

    I'm offended that they're offended. So there.

  • USAF Vet Feb 7, 2013

    And hey… some people are less sensitive about these things and some people are more sensitive. The one thing we shouldn’t do is degrade others because they feel differently about an issue than ourselves. I was taught that it’s not what you’re called, but rather what you answer to… but I still try to remain aware of how others might receive and feel about things that are of lesser priority to me. But that’s just me.

  • USAF Vet Feb 7, 2013

    I don’t believe the themed Duke party had any racial or discriminatory intentions and I don’t think the offended group even believes that… the issue at hand is the over-exaggeration of the Asian stereotypes. If the fraternity didn’t include some of the costumes and the invitation, there might not have been a reaction at all. Stereotypes that are left unchecked eventually become a belief to others that are ignorant of the truth. I’ve attended parties where a co-worker’s wife would apologize for not having fried chicken and malt liquor. Was she being racist..? No, because she only knew of the stereotype that she had been exposed to, she actually believed it. Now does the Kappa Sigma Fraternity know that Asians CAN pronounce Ls in words and don’t wear loin cloths? Of course, they do… they wanted to mock the stereotype and probably didn’t consider (or care) if it would offend anyone else. And I think that’s the issue.

  • Fun Feb 7, 2013

    Im offended that they are offended, it's a fraternity, an AMERICAN Tradition. It's what we do and did in a fraternity and hope we will continue to do- There have been Hollywood Movies made about it Animal House. Don't be so thin skinned, it was just a party a reason to invite women over drink and have some fun ! Join a fraternity if you think you can handle it, you'll get another education about life !

  • jdman Feb 7, 2013

    That is too funny!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Coach K is still GREAT Feb 7, 2013

    Just going to ask this one question, then will move on because I understand some can be taught and some simply cannot.

    This fraternity has now been suspended by their parent organization.

    Do you think the parent organization would suspend them if they hadn't crossed a line?

    Do you think the parent organization would give up the dues for any length of time over a simple triviality, especially in this economy??

    Iak Hsehpen
    February 6, 2013 6:46 p.m.

    Here's one for you... do you think they would have been suspended if this hadn't have been blown WAY out of proportion??