Kappa ‘Jail N’ Bail’ philanthropy event canceled after criticism

Jeanne Kuang, Campus Editor

Organizers canceled a philanthropy event featuring a mock jail hosted by Kappa Kappa Gamma and Zeta Beta Tau after criticism of the event surfaced online.

Members of both organizations confirmed Sunday night the event will not be held. Kappa apologized to the Northwestern community in a statement Monday.

The page advertised “Jail N’ Bail,” an event where Kappa members planned to “arrest” volunteers who would raise “bail” money to benefit Reading is Fundamental, a children’s literacy nonprofit. A photo promoting the event showed women in the sorority quad posing in orange jumpsuits.

Comments on the philanthropy’s public Facebook page criticized the event for being insensitive to systemic issues surrounding mass incarceration in the United States. Kappa has held the “Jail N’ Bail” in previous years.

“You’re employing aspects, the orange jumpsuits, of an oppressive system that operates as a massive encumbrance to the lives and literacy rates of black and brown children in these ‘underprivileged’ areas,” Weinberg sophomore Alejandro Banuelos wrote in a comment.

“All of them should be ashamed,” SESP junior Maria Marquez wrote in a public Facebook post about the event.

In a letter to the editor published Sunday night in The Daily, Weinberg sophomore Ajay Nadig said the event idea was offensive on both racial and socioeconomic grounds.

“The fact that a group of wealthy Northwestern students are ‘playacting’ at being prisoners (most of whom are poor) is a blatant belittling of the realities of mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex,” Nadig wrote.

A statement from ZBT Sunday night called the event “an error in judgment.”

“Following oversight of the racial and socioeconomic issues associated with a planned and registered philanthropy event, the brothers of Zeta Beta Tau decided to withdraw from the event as previously planned,” ZBT said in a statement.

Austin Romero, Associated Student Government vice president for diversity and inclusion, brought students’ concerns about the event to the organizers’ attention Sunday night.

“We had a conversation if they were aware the imagery of the event was pretty offensive,” Romero, a SESP senior, said. He added organizers were receptive to the criticism.

In its statement Monday, Kappa said it “regrets organizing the Jail N Bail event due to its offensive nature.”

“We expect our members to promote integrity, respect and regard for others at all times and we apologize to the NU community,” Kappa said in the statement.

This story was updated around 7:30 p.m.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Alejandro Banuelos’ comment. He wrote “encumbrance,” not “emcumbrance.” The Daily regrets the error. 

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