More than a week after Arizona State University suspended a fraternity for a Martin Luther King Jr. weekend party mocking black people, the local chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon apologized on social media – on the orders of the fraternity's international headquarters.
In a letter addressed to ASU and the Tempe community, the Beta-Xi chapter wrote on its Facebook page Thursday afternoon that it was sorry for "the offensive and racially insensitive conduct in which a few members of our chapter recently engaged."
Sixteen members of the fraternity's local chapter attended the party on Jan. 19, the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Attendees wore stereotypical clothing such as baggy basketball jerseys, bandannas and backward baseball caps. One photo from the night showed an attendee holding a cup made from a watermelon. To accompany photos they posted, students used hashtags such as #blackoutformlk, #ihaveadream and #mlkparty.
"The offensive party that took place...was not planned, publicized, endorsed, hosted or condoned in any way by either the Beta-Xi Chapter of TKE or the International Fraternity," the chapter wrote. "We apologize that a few select individuals, in a moment of poor taste and bad judgment, held an event that was both insulting to the community and contrary to the values, principles and ideals of Tau Kappa Epsilon."
In an investigation by TKE's international headquarters and ASU, officials determined that the party was not an official fraternity event and had been hosted at an individual member's personal residence "without malice or forethought."
The party hosts "failed to fulfill the obligations of membership they promised to uphold when they chose to join TKE," the chapter's Facebook post said. "We have suspended those involved while we continue our investigation and begin a thorough review of their membership."
TKE International officials said in a statement last week that 16 of 125 members of the ASU chapter attended the private party, and that fewer than 30 men and women were there altogether. Therefore, the party did not fit the university's Interfraternity Council guidelines for an official fraternity function.
Additionally, the investigation determined that only one watermelon cup was used, and that a non-TKE member had brought it to the party. Some of the photos were not taken that night but instead at a 2012 Halloween event and an earlier sports-themed function, TKE said in a statement.
TKE International officials said the chapter had been put on probation for a minimum of one year. In addition, with permission from ASU, TKE International will sponsor a professional program on cultural diversity "in an effort to promote unity and educate the students of ASU."