Students protest racist e-mail

Casey Newton

Representatives of the Coalition of Color said they will meet with Vice President for Student Affairs Peggy Barr today to discuss an e-mail message containing derogatory comments about Asian Americans.

Six coalition members, all representing the Asian American Advisory Board, met Monday to organize a response to the issue.

The message, posted to the Phi Delta Theta listserv on April 18 by member Brian Herr, describes an intramural softball game between Phi Delt and a team containing Asian-American players. Written in the style of a myth, the 200-word message employs several ethnic stereotypes and derogatory epithets about Asians.

The message became public when Phi Delt member Matt Dolan posted the message in his locked suite at Kemper Hall. A student took the message and gave it to AAAB.

On Monday, the coalition posted about 600 copies of the e-mail around campus and later agreed to “strongly encourage” Phi Delt to organize and sponsor an awareness event during Asian-American Heritage Month, which began Monday.

But Phi Delt President Amit Mady said Herr and Dolan already have been ordered to give a fireside on diversity in May.

“Half of what they’re bringing to Dr. Barr already has been passed, so it’s a moot point,” said Mady, a Weinberg junior. “They would have found that out if they had the decency to call me — which they didn’t.”

Both Dolan and Herr went before Phi Delt’s standards board, which also suspended their voting privileges and put them on social probation. They e-mailed apologies on Thursday to the student who found the message and to AAAB Chairman Wayne Wu.

Wu, a McCormick junior, said the issue needs further discussion.

“Thinking these things and not censoring yourself — that demonstrates profound ignorance that needs to be addressed on this campus,” Wu said. “I want to address the fact that this could happen without anybody thinking twice about it. We have a right to make a big deal about this.”

Wu said that by not responding to the e-mail before AAAB brought it up, Phi Delt expressed tacit approval.

“The fraternity in a way condones the e-mail by not taking action prior to someone outside the fraternity taking hold of it,” he said.

Coalition members said the issue was about more than AAAB and the fraternity.

“This is not a Coalition of Color vs. Phi Delt issue,” Lee said. “This is a racial issue that involves everyone on campus and that effects everyone on campus.”

But Phi Delt President Mady said the coalition made the e-mail a fraternity issue Monday when representatives plastered copies of the e-mail in buildings around campus.

“I’m very upset (about) the flier that AAAB has issued across campus,” he said. “It took what one individual said and made it appear as if this is the viewpoint of the entire fraternity, which it clearly is not.”

Lee said the coalition wanted to let people see the e-mail in its entirety so they could make up their own minds about its contents.

Some said the coalition overreacted.

“Posting signs all over campus, I thought, was ridiculous,” said Kevin Yam, an Asian-American Phi Delt member. “They said they were trying to protect the identity of the authors, but at the same time they’re saying it’s Phi Delt members. It implies that all the members of Phi Delt are racist.”

Mady said the incident unfairly damaged the reputation of the Phi Delt, which is 15 percent Asian.

“It’s tarnishing our image,” he said. “We’ve done so many positive things this year, and this has thrown that all out of whack. This is hurting the morale of the fraternity in a big way.”