Students at the University of Connecticut marched to the president’s house last night in 25-degree weather to voice their frustration with what they call racism on campus and to demand “institutional change.”
The March for Civility, Equality, and Justice was executed to raise awareness about racism, sexism and justice on the part of university officials after an incident between a white fraternity and a Black sorority, according to The Daily Campus, a school publication.
In September, members of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, known as PIKE, and members of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a Black sorority, converged at the “spirit rock” on North Campus. PIKE members spray-painted a message in support of someone in a medical crisis. When AKA members came to place a message on the rock for another reason, they were stopped by the fraternity members.
An argument ensued, with one of the sorority members called a “fat black bitch,” the AKAs claim. The police were called. After an investigation, it was determined that PIKE engaged in intimidation and bullying. After a brief suspension during the investigation, the university suspended PIKE until May 2015.
PIKE said in a statement:
“The Iota Chi Chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity fully cooperated with the University of Connecticut during the five (5) week investigation headed by the Office of Community Standards involving the alleged incident at the North Campus Rock. Subsequently, the Office of Student Activities presented the chapter with a notice of sanctions on November 6, 2014. The Iota Chi Chapter does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. The Chapter is committed to working together with the University, UConn Police, and all affected parties to improve the UConn community.”
During a town meeting on Nov. 10 with faculty and students, Brittney Yancy, the AKA graduate adviser, told UConn officials that fraternity members used racial and sexist slurs.
“(An AKA) actually got called a fat black bitch,” Daeja Bailey, a UConn senior and co-organizer of the march, said.
Pike denies the accusations against them.
University president, Susan Herbst, said she was “appalled” by the comments made on social media towards the AKAs after the incident. On Monday, she e-mailed a letter to UConn students, faculty and staff addressing the incident and the subsequent meeting.
“These are serious allegations that the university continues to thoroughly investigate, as it should. There is no room for hateful speech or incivility on our campuses,” Herbst wrote.
Evelyn Simien, associate professor of political science at UConn, told The Hartford Courant that the confrontation was about more than race. Simien told the Courant that it was frightening because it was a small group of women being intimidating by a larger group of male students.
“I think the issue needs to be talked about in terms of race and gender,” she said. “This is a public safety issue involving women on campus.”