COLUMBIA — Clemson University put the school’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity on probation for two years after the group held a “Cripmas” party last December that had students dressed like gang members, according to a statement released Monday.
The fraternity’s national organization was outraged by the Christmas-themed party that had members wearing blue and red bandanas, colors of the street gangs the Crips and Bloods, throwing up gang hand symbols and wearing T-shirts with images of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.
About two dozen students were suspended and the leaders of the local chapter, whose operations are controlled by alumni advisers, were removed.
“The decision of a few brothers to hold the type of social event they organized is inexcusable and completely inappropriate, and the entire group was sanctioned. Furthermore, their behavior in no way reflects the values and creed of the fraternity, and we apologize to campus and local community for their actions because we teach our brothers to be leaders, scholars and, most importantly, gentlemen,” the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon Organization said in its statement.
Pictures of the party were posted on social media, causing backlash as black students said Clemson didn’t do enough to promote racial tolerance. About 6 percent of Clemson’s students are black.
The fraternity violated alcohol rules and student conduct codes, according to a brief statement by the university. The probation runs until February 2017. Clemson announced the sanctions about two months after the fraternity met with Clemson’s Office of Community and Ethical Standards.
The fraternity also must complete an education program about alcohol, social justice and gangs.
A Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma was disbanded earlier this year after members were taped singing a racist song.
The Clemson chapter of the fraternity was suspended almost immediately after the party photos reached the Internet. The gathering came shortly after protests at the university over a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in the shooting of a black teen caused a number of anonymous racist postings on the social media app Yik Yak.
“Clemson is better than this,” university president Jim Clements wrote in an email shortly after the party, adding that free expression of opinion cannot cross the line to harassment and intimidation just like protest marches can’t turn into lawless riots.
Clemson has added a lecture series and a monthly luncheon to promote diversity, and Clements has vowed to spend this year reviewing how the university treats minorities and can attract a more inclusive class of students.