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Fraternity Apologizes To University Of Chicago Students For Racially Charged Emails

"We are sorry that our fraternity was ever a safe haven for the kind of vitriol you have now all seen," the fraternity said in a response to the leaked emails published by BuzzFeed News.

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The Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity at the University of Chicago issued a public apology Thursday, one day after BuzzFeed News published leaked racially charged emails in which brothers referred to a Muslim student activist as a "terrorist" and wrote about celebrating "Marathon Luther King Day" by going to a fried chicken restaurant.

"We are sorry," the fraternity said in a statement to students at the university. "We are sorry that our fraternity was ever a safe haven for the kind of vitriol you have now all seen, and we are sorry for the fact that when it was, none of us did enough to stop it."

The chapter also announced a series of steps to address the behavior, including amending their constitution to state: "Brothers are expected to express or display absolutely no degree of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamaphobia (sic) or other forms of hateful actions or speech, whether spoken or written."

They also announced mandatory sensitivity training for pledges and open forums on campus to discuss such issues.

"We know that this is too little. We know it is too late," the statement read.

Here's the full statement:

To the students of the University of Chicago,

We are sorry. We are sorry that our fraternity was ever a safe haven for the kind of vitriol you have now all seen, and we are sorry for the fact that when it was, none of us did enough to stop it. We are sorry and we are ashamed that we previously had no formal system in place to address hatred and hate speech. We are sorry to have acted in a way not only inconsistent with our fundamental human values, but with the particular values of our faith and our heritage. To those we have offended, to those we have hurt, we are sorry.

It would be easy to try and remove ourselves from responsibility, to say that this was a few brothers or that it happened in the past. Such a defense, however, would be as deceptive as it is reprehensible. We are one fraternity, and we all bear responsibility for all of our actions and the culture that we all allowed. Our past behavior cannot be defended and cannot be undone. What we can do, what we must do, and what we will do is take this opportunity to be better. We are committed to making sure that this will never happen again, and to that end we have taken the following steps:

1. We have amended our constitution so that there is a zero tolerance policy towards hateful actions or speech. Our Code of Conduct now reads in part, “Brothers are expected to express or display absolutely no degree of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamaphobia or other forms of hateful actions or speech, whether spoken or written. Violation of this clause is grounds for an immediate hearing by Standards Board.”

2. We have amended our constitution so that the responsibilities of the Pledge Committee now formally include mandatory sensitivity training. This year’s pledge class has already undergone such training.

3. We have agreed as a fraternity that all potential rushes will be informed of the expectations of the Code of Conduct before they are given a bid.

4. We will have ongoing open forums for the University community to discuss these and other issues so that we can make further change to our fraternity. We also want this to be the beginning of a dialogue on campus about how to improve Greek life as a whole. We recognize that we cannot solve these issues on the own, and we welcome the opportunity to work with everyone, especially non-Greek students, to make our fraternity more welcoming to all.

We know that the harm we have inflicted is not undone by a couple of paragraphs and a few constitutional changes of which many among you are likely skeptical. We know that this is too little. We know it is too late. We hope and pray, however, that using the above as a starting point, we can work with others and among ourselves to create a better AEPi."

On Thursday, the University of Chicago sent out an email to all undergraduate and graduate students, calling the language in the emails "disrespectful and harmful" and the views expressed in them "unacceptable."

The email, provided to BuzzFeed News, urged students to take part in the university's upcoming survey focused on "diversity, inclusion, and the climate for underrepresented and marginalized groups."

Here's the full statement:

Dear Students,

Yesterday, an article in BuzzFeed revealed offensive emails attributed to individuals who have been or are students at the University of Chicago and are affiliated with a fraternity. The language used is disrespectful and harmful, particularly to members of our Muslim and African-American communities and to women. The attitudes and views they express are unacceptable, violate the University’s core values, and conflict with our strong commitment to ensuring that people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives can thrive on our campus. As the President and Provost noted in a message to the community last November, inclusion has a particular and fundamental significance at the University of Chicago. The members of our University community are dedicated to making progress on these matters, but we know much more work needs to be done.

The University is working with all students to make sure that our campus respects these values. The upcoming survey focused on diversity, inclusion, and the climate for underrepresented and marginalized groups will provide a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the climate issues facing our campus, and will help us to develop the tools and resources needed for thoughtful solutions. We encourage you to take part in a series of climate survey forums that are open to all students and are hosted by various offices throughout campus. Your participation is essential in helping the University address these issues and move forward as a community. The schedule of forums can be found here: https://csl.uchicago.edu/node/129868

We have met with a number of concerned students in the last day who have shared helpful ideas for additional steps we could take. Campus and Student Life will continue to seek your involvement as we work together to ensure that our campus community is inclusive and welcoming.

Karen Warren Coleman
Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services

Michele Rasmussen
Dean of Students in the University

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

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