The Collegian
Sunday, May 28, 2023

Students, administrators react to explicit e-mail

Editor's Note: This article contains graphically explicit language and may make some readers uncomfortable. Profanities are censored using dashes to represent the remaining letters.

University of Richmond administrators and members of the Greek system say they are taking swift action after a fraternity recruitment officer sent an e-mail that included graphically explicit language encouraging recruits to come to fraternity parties.

While reporting this story, Collegian staff writers were shown additional e-mails that were circulated among members of other fraternities and contained graphically racist and sexist language. Several people who spoke about the issue declined to comment on the record.

The e-mail -- written by Kappa Sigma's recruitment chairman -- details the group's weekend events and tells first-year recruits to "bring your favorite freshman skeezas so they can get a c - - k thrown in em by whoever. hopefully if you brought em u can finish the deal." A skeeza is slang for a sexually promiscuous woman.

Other fraternity members, who addressed The Collegian anonymously, said that this was not the worst of fraternity e-mails.

Earlier in the e-mail, the chairman describes a coming apartment party:

"The place to be is clearly in the back, where the music is the loud as f - - - and some blacked out bitch is grinding on four dudes at once. good memory to think about in your friday morning class."

Keith McCalla, the fraternity's president, said the person had been immediately removed from his position with the fraternity, but would remain a fraternity member pending the university's disciplinary action. The Collegian is not printing the chairman's name because of the topic's sensitive nature.

"The Kappa Sigma Fraternity does not condone nor tolerate the degradation of women, or anyone else for that matter," McCalla wrote in a statement Wednesday night. "We have a fraternity Code of Conduct that is to be adhered to by all Kappa Sigma brothers and pledges. ... Unfortunately, one of our members authored an e-mail that was completely inappropriate and does not reflect the culture our chapter promotes. The e-mail was sent without the knowledge of any other Kappa Sigma. ... Appropriate disciplinary action has been taken by the fraternity.

"We are saddened by and apologize to the university community for this lack of judgment by one of our members and the offense it has caused. We have undertaken remedial action to be certain this type of incident is not repeated."

The student who wrote the e-mail issued an apology saying that the comments were made in jest, and that he did not intend to "demean females or jeopardize their integrity."

"To say that the content of the e-mail was offensive to women would be a gross understatement," he wrote. "Nothing said in the e-mail is a reflection of the views of anyone in Kappa Sigma. I beg you from the bottom of my heart to not let this event alter your opinions of my brothers and Kappa Sigma as a whole.

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"I know I have offended all of you with what I wrote in the e-mail," he continued. "I attempted to make a joke, but I admit that I took it way too far, and the only thing I succeeded in doing was infuriating the female population on this campus. For this, I am truly, deeply sorry."

The Richmond College dean's office is investigating whether to punish the student for violating the university's standards of student conduct, Steve Bisese, vice president for student development, wrote in an e-mail to faculty, staff and students Wednesday night. The fraternity member faces judicial discipline within the Greek system.

Bisese said the incident signaled the need for a broader campus discussion about misogyny and gender stereotyping. University officials said Richmond and Westhampton colleges would be holding forums to discuss gender, respect and standards of personal conduct.

"There are members of the fraternity that are as appalled as the women are," said Alison B. Keller, director of Greek life and associate director of student activities. "It's not going to be swept under the rug. It's being addressed swiftly and carefully. This isn't just a Greek issue, it's the community."

The e-mail drew condemnation from Greek life leaders Lizzie Barry, president of Panhellenic Council, and David McCormick, president of the Interfraternity Council.

Both Greek leaders said they were committed to using this incident as a way to talk about the issue and educate the university community. All sororities met Wednesday night to discuss how they felt about the e-mail.

"It's not a Greek-life issue specifically," Barry said. "These are issues that are beyond our community."

She said she had not seen an e-mail like this one before, but was aware it happened on campus. McCormick said the IFC was disappointed with the fraternity member's "degrading and vulgar comments toward women."

He said when he became IFC president, his first goal was to break down social stereotypes each fraternity had. He said members of the Greek community were planning to hold an open forum to offer students a chance to express their opinions sometime after fall break.

"We're trying to work through the situation," Barry said. "I wish it didn't happen in this manner, but we can use it for education."

Westhampton Dean Juliette Landphair said she and Richmond College Dean Joe Boehman met during the summer to talk about themed parties fraternities were hosting on campus. Recent events have included "CEOs and Corporate Hoes" and "Predators and Prey."

"I would say it's not just the Greek community," Boehman said. "Some of the theme parties I have heard about were from sports clubs, some of them were from other student organizations, and some of them were just apartment parties."

Landphair said some women perceived these parties as a joke.

"They say, 'Why are you so serious?'" she said of women who challenge this sentiment. "'It's fun, you get to dress up.' There are women who like the sexualization."

Some women will have the same reaction when they read the Kappa Sigma e-mail, she said, while others may be hurt by the comments.

"Some people will be devastated emotionally because they've been victims of sexual violence," Landphair said.

She raised strong concerns that the words would lead to sexual violence.

Said Landphair: "Men need to stand up and challenge other men."

Fraternity members throughout the system have recently attended risk-management seminars and retreats about alcohol and parties, Keller said. Last week, fraternities attended a program about sexual assault, Landphair said.

The Kappa Sigma e-mail was sent last Wednesday to fraternity recruits.

University officials were alerted about the e-mail Tuesday afternoon, but it had already been forwarded to members of multiple sororities, who quickly circulated it among their members and others outside the Greek community.

"I think what surprises me is that people could interpret it as a joke," Keller said.

Keller quickly condemned the remarks written in the Kappa Sigma e-mail, sending a statement to Greek life students Tuesday night.

The scandal comes at time when President Edward Ayers and others within the university community are drafting the university's strategic plan -- a document that states improving diversity and inclusivity should be one of the university's five main principles.

Keller said she had contacted the chapter adviser, the national fraternity office, the chapter president and the Panhellenic executive officers. Top university officials convened early Wednesday to determine a response to the incident.

"I assure you that we will continue our commitment to maintaining a community that is respectful, open and committed to equality," Bisese wrote.

Boehman said he was angry because the e-mail was offensive to both men and women at Richmond.

Still, university officials said they did not believe this was an isolated incident on campus.

"We have a good number of men on this campus who are respectful of women, who do not participate in sexist or misogynistic comments, and yet this person put this out there," Boehman said. "That's not keeping with the values of a Richmond College man. We value a positive image for masculinity."

A bias-response team is going to be addressing the large-scale programmatic response to the incident, Boehman said.

"I wish that it was an isolated incident," Boehman said. "I don't think that it is. Do I have specific evidence? No. If I did, we would be addressing it. I would be naive to think that it is.

"For the entire community, there is a level of acceptance of behavior and a failure to act that is saddening to me. It's disheartening."

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