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BET vs. CMT: Are Racially Charged Frat Parties Problematic or Just College Kids Having Fun?

A racially themed party at McDaniel College in Westminster is being investigated. Credit: (Wikimedia Commons: Alan Levine)
A racially themed party at McDaniel College in Westminster is being investigated. Credit: (Wikimedia Commons: Alan Levine)
By Deb Belt

Racially charged frat parties have been drawing scrutiny across the country.

The Kappa Sigma fraternity at Duke University was suspended earlier this month by its parent organization after throwing an Asian-themed party featuring geisha outfits and intentional misspellings. Last month, a party at Arizona State University’s fraternities sparked outrage after using Martin Luther King Jr. as its theme while partygoers flashed gang signs and wore saggy pants and posed with hollowed-out watermelon cups.

In the most recent incident, a party at McDaniel College in Westminster pitted “CMT versus BET” – with students wearing outfits inspirited by Country Music Television and Black Entertainment Television.

The McDaniel Free Press student newspaper reported that women wore cutoff shorts, plaid shirts and boots, while the men wore baggy clothing, chains and backward baseball caps. The party is being investigated by college officials.

The incident involved McDaniel's chapters of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority and the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, the college told FOX45. Officials said the "non-approved college event" was held at an off-campus residence in late January.

"Upon learning of this incident in early February, the college partnered with the national headquarters of these student chapters to launch an ongoing investigation," a college spokesperson said. "Decisions will be forthcoming and sanctions will be determined."

School spokeswoman Cheryl Knauer told CBS DC the college learned of the party in early February and launched an investigation along with the national headquarters of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority and the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

The Kappa Sigma fraternity at Duke University was suspended earlier this month by its parent organization after throwing an Asian-themed party featuring geisha outfits and intentional misspellings. Last month, a party at Arizona State University’s fraternities sparked outrage after using Martin Luther King Jr. as its theme while partygoers flashed gang signs and wore saggy pants and posed with hollowed-out watermelon cups.

McDaniel’s Vice President for Student Affairs Beth Gerl told CBS that the college supports inclusiveness.

“Any event that promotes negative stereotypes or disrespect of others is reprehensible,” she said. “When an incident like this occurs it is a teachable moment.”

The college’s Black Student Union President, Serena Hueitt, told the student newspaper that her group is working to change how African-Americans are viewed, and this might be a setback.

“Dressing up seems to play into the stereotypes of people of African-American descent. I don’t think it’s right to do that,” Hueitt said.

Len Robertson March 08, 2014 at 04:28 PM
Kids do stupid and mean spirited things all the time and they're regularly chastised for it. "Why are you picking on me?" is always their complaint. "Because..." is always the correct answer. Then, there is the problem that young men goad each other into really stupid stuff. About the only cure for them is growing up. In the meantime, regularly burn their butts.
Robert Collins March 09, 2014 at 09:43 AM
The Black man says, I'm proud to be Black. The Asian man says, I'm proud to be Asian. The Mexican says, I'm Proud to be Mexican. The Racist says, I'm proud to be White.
Manuela Dossantos March 10, 2014 at 03:18 PM
The reason why these kinds of parties are unacceptable is because they promote stereotypes and cliches. They remove a group of people from history and make them one dimensional, just a form of entertainment. Stereotypes are used by those in power to silence minorities by making them irrelevant in the minds of the minority.
R Luno March 10, 2014 at 10:36 PM
Is anyone other than me totally fed up with the 'so called' minorities calling everyone and everything they dislike 'racist'!

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