SMU President R. Gerald Turner writes to SMU community about ‘racially offensive’ fraternity party

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Dear SMU community members:

I am deeply concerned about the recent actions of two campus fraternities in planning and promoting an off-campus party with racially offensive themes and images. This party was not sanctioned by SMU, and this incident is under review by the University.

Although the offensive party has been cancelled, and the inappropriate Facebook promotions have been removed, the key point is that SMU students should know better than to engage in such irresponsible and insensitive conduct. It is simply unacceptable for any campus group or individual to employ images and language that promote negative stereotypes and are demeaning to the dignity of any member of our campus community. If students choose to create themes based on their ideas of popular culture, they should be aware of the potential impact and always keep in mind respect for others.

As you may recall, SMU last spring launched a Greek Life Diversity Task Force in response to national events. The task force has been gathering feedback from campus focus groups. I encourage you to provide input if you have not yet done so; please contact task force co-chair and Director of Multicultural Student Affairs Creston Lynch atcclynch@smu.edu. Students who have concerns or questions also may contact any of the campus resources listed at the end of this letter.

We as a campus must remain aware of issues or actions that can undermine our commitment to a nurturing and welcoming environment for all students. We must continue discussions in our classrooms, student organizations, fraternities and sororities, and Residential Commons. The Division of Student Affairs is developing an intercultural center that will further these discussions, with plans to launch this spring.

I am proud of the many students who have provided leadership on these important issues, including student senators, who last week sponsored the first SMU Values Week to raise awareness of the student Values Statement. I ask all campus community members to join me in recommitting to this statement – not as an empty recitation, but as an absolute pledge to uphold these values:

“I, as a citizen of the SMU community, commit myself to upholding the values of intellectual integrity, academic honesty, personal responsibility, and sincere regard and respect for all SMU students, faculty, and staff.”

Thank you for your commitment to an inclusive and welcoming living and learning environment.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner
President

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