Blacks Decry GSU Fraternity
Protesters complain of slur, threaten boycott of school
Etan Horowitz, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mar. 25
Tempers continued to flare at Georgia State University on Thursday over a racial incident that happened at a fraternity party in January.
About 200 people attended a rally organized by the Black Student Alliance to demand that the university take further action against the predominantly white Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. At the emotional rally, students raised their fists in the air chanting “Black Power,” and presented a list of 12 demands.
“The entire organization needs to be kicked off this campus,” said Dawn Davison, 27, who led the rally. “Any threat to diversity is a threat to the university.”
The protest was in response to a Jan. 24 Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity party where two members arrived wearing blackface, according to a university incident report. After members of Phi Beta Sigma, a historically black fraternity that was at the party, objected to the blackface, the two members took it off, the incident report said.
A few days after the party, members of both fraternities met with school officials and Pi Kappa Alpha apologized for the incident, said Dan Forrester, the fraternity’s president. The fraternity also suspended the two members. Georgia State officials have suspended the fraternity pending the outcome of a hearing.
The university has also held a hearing for the two students who wore blackface, but university officials declined to release the outcome of the hearing, saying federal student privacy laws prevent them from doing so.
Students on the campus, where enrollment is about one-third African-American, have been debating the issue and the racial climate at Georgia State.
A Pi Kappa Alpha member has filed charges with the university against the Black Student Alliance for producing a flier that criticized the fraternity. Forrester, 23, said members of his fraternity have been threatened because of the flier and have filed reports with police.
“Pi Kappa Alpha as an organization has taken every opportunity to apologize on this matter,” Forrester said, “but the school isn’t portraying it that way. I’ve been disappointed in the way the school has dealt with the issue. I hope we are going to receive a fair hearing.”
Speakers at Thursday’s rally, which included students from Morehouse College, demanded further action from the university and threatened to boycott businesses run by Georgia State. Among the demands: suspension of Pi Kappa Alpha for a minimum of three years, the addition of a mandatory African-American history course for all students, and hiring of more minority faculty in tenure track positions. Shakeema Bell, a member of the Black Student Alliance, said the university has until 4 p.m. Wednesday to respond to the list of demands.
University President Carl V. Patton released a statement Thursday urging students to be patient as the fraternity’s case goes through the school’s judicial process. “Georgia State University will not tolerate racial discrimination, threats or intimidation,” the statement said.
Earlier in the day, at a Student Government Association carnival held at lunchtime, the College Republicans held an “anti-bigotry bake sale.” The group’s chairman, Russell Mildner, said the fund-raiser was not in support of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, but rather to protest the way the university handled the incident and ensuing response. Mildner said the university is unfairly blaming the entire fraternity for the actions of two members.
The bake sale grew tense when students from the Black Student Alliance gathered in front of the College Republicans’ table, denouncing the group and the fund-raiser with a bullhorn. Members from both groups shouted at each other across the table. Members of the Black Student Alliance were upset over a sign on the College Republicans’ table that accused them of not being inclusive. Soon after the complaints, Mildner removed the sign.
The recent protests are reminiscent of demonstrations that took place at Georgia State in 1992 after a racial slur was discovered on a trashcan in the University Center. The slur was written by an inactive member of the predominantly white Sigma Nu fraternity and set off a two-day sit-in by black students. That same year, the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was also sanctioned for displaying pictures of their members in blackface, according to university documents.