The Kappa Sigma fraternity’s chapter at Duke University set off a flood of criticism last week for inviting students to a party titled “Asia Prime,” which featured conical hats, sumo loincloths, and an invitation written in a stereotypical accent. The fraternity changed the party’s name to “International Relations” when a backlash erupted. But the event went on as planned, and students gathered on Wednesday in protest:
yfrog.com/moz3zqqj Duke students protest Kappa Sigma Asian themed party
— Caitlin Knute-WTVD (@CaitlinCoyner11) February 6, 2013
The fraternity’s national office then suspended the chapter over the controversy.
The party joins a long tradition of ethnically themed Greek events widely viewed as offensive, such as a “fiesta” hosted by Penn State’s Chi Omega Nu Gamma that featured handmade “Will Mow Lawn for Weed + Beer” signs, a “Compton Cook-Out” at the University of California at San Diego, and a “Pilgrims and Indians” party at Duke. About the latter, one student wrote, “The only props missing from the party were smallpox-infected blankets.”
Universities are well aware of the problems that the parties, and the resulting backlash, can cause on their campuses and in the national fraternity and sorority organizations. Some, such as Southern Methodist University, have even provided handy guides for Greek advisers and chapter heads, in an attempt to head off criticism. If only those efforts weren’t as ham-fisted as the original events.
For an example, see Page 14 of this “Party Smart” guide, which says, “Offensive party themes are not an issue of political correctness; rather, they are evident [sic] of a larger social ill.” Here are a few other excerpts:
After studying those “helpful handouts,” we have several questions: How does one subscribe to The Party Papers? What are the cool fonts they used? What is the meaning of the sentence “How about doing a philanthropy?”
If nothing else, it should be proof that university intervention can be an effective tool against a fraternity’s misdeeds. Oh, wait.