Wisconsin fraternity suspended after reports of racism

A fraternity has been suspended on University of Wisconsin’s flagship campus after a member reported that the organization created an environment that breeds discrimination and racial insensitivity, the school said.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter on the university’s Madison campus has been suspended of all activities until Nov. 1 and all fraternity members are required to go through diversity, inclusion and mental health training, the school said in a statement on Wednesday.

The suspension stems from a complaint from an unidentified member who reported to the university’s student-led Committee on Student Organizations that he was subjected to fellow members using racial, anti-gay and anti-Semitic slurs on several occasions since 2014, the school said.

In one instance, the student reported that a fellow fraternity member addressed him with a racial slur and choked him for five seconds until other members intervened during a Halloween party in 2014, according to the school.  

The committee found the chapter violated its nondiscrimination requirements and suspended the organization on Tuesday.

The suspension comes amid allegations of other racially insensitive incidents on other U.S. campuses involving the fraternity including reports of members chanting a racist song on several occasions from 2012 to 2015, according to the national fraternity organization.

The national fraternity said in a statement that it was investigating and apologized, saying that members who were responsible are no longer with the fraternity.

“When we find that the behavior of any member is inconsistent with our expectations, we work to eradicate that behavior,” the fraternity said.

University chancellor Rebecca Blank wrote in a letter to the fraternity’s executive director Blaine Ayers, saying that the organization has failed to “address persistent reports of discriminatory behavior, as well as the national body’s inability to address discrimination within its chapter”, an allegation the fraternity rejected.

“The conduct in this situation must not be repeated,” she wrote, calling on fraternity leadership to visit her and explain how the organization will “prevent a recurrence of these issues”, before the suspension is lifted. 

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Alison Williams)

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