Published January 24, 2014
Arizona State University permanently severed ties with the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity late Thursday, just days after suspending the local chapter over accusations it hosted a distasteful party in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
University officials notified the fraternity of its decision and said the school is continuing to investigate members of the chapter and students who attended the party for violations of the ASU Code of Conduct, MyFoxPhoenix.com reported.
"At ASU, students who violate these standards will be subject to disciplinary sanctions in order to promote their own personal development, to protect the university community, and to maintain order and stability on our campuses, " ASU President Michael Crow told the station.
The controversy surround the party has prompted a new debate over whether the behavior was racist or an exercise of free speech.
"This is the United States of America, not the United States of I have a right to never be offended," one person posted on Facebook, AZCentral.com reported.
Pictures from the party made their way onto social media websites, depicting guests dressed in basketball jerseys, flashing gang signs and holding watermelon-shaped cups.
"How can you not realize how stupid this is?" said Cuyler Meade, 25, an ASU junior. "It's embarrassing if people look at ASU and think we're all like that."
The Rev. Jarrett Maupin, an Arizona civil rights activist, said the party antics were outrageous and offensive. He is calling on the school to expel all students involved and permanently ban the fraternity from affiliation with ASU.
"It was just a raucous, racist rally, and they used Dr. King's holiday as a mask for racial villainy and harassment," Maupin said Tuesday.
Gene Policinski, the chief operating officer of the Newseum institute in Washington, D.C., told AZCentral that he believes the Constitution protects the students' right to dress as they did as well as their offensive language.
Alex Baker, a spokesman for the national fraternity organization, said the group does not condone racist or discriminatory behavior.
"It is with embarrassment and regret when a few individuals within our organization make decisions that do not align with the values and principles of Tau Kappa Epsilon," Baker said in a statement.
University officials had planned to meet with fraternity representatives regarding the off-campus party over the weekend.
The Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity was already on probation for an off-campus fight in 2012, according to ASU. The university did not provide additional details of the incident or disciplinary action.
Founded in 1899 at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill., the fraternity has about 257,000 members at 291 chapters and colonies across the United States and Canada, according to its website.
In 2012, the University of Arizona stripped its local chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon of recognition after an investigation showed multiple instances of dangerous hazing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report