Meeting leads Chi Omega toward understanding

Bryan Wroten

The key parties said a meeting yesterday was a good start toward coming to an understanding about problems raised by a racially insensitive award given at the Chi Omega formal Saturday.

“We hope something positive will come from this,” Chi Omega President Marisa Stroud said. “We’re looking to move forward.”

Sheryl Smith, associate dean of students and director of the Center for Student Involvement, gave the sorority a “cease and desist” directive after the formal. The order stopped all sorority activities except business meetings attended by an adviser.

Besides Chi Omega members, the meeting was attended by representatives of Panhellenic Council, the Kent State NAACP chapter, Black United Students, Zeta Phi Beta and the Center for Student Involvement.

Stroud said the award, “Blackest Chi Omega,” came from an inside joke among a group of multiracial friends. It became one of a number of awards given to seniors, so, it wasn’t announced until the formal, she said.

Its content “slipped through the cracks,” she said, without people realizing it could be offensive. It should never have come out to the public, she said.

During yesterday’s meeting, Stroud said, Chi Omega members had the opportunity to apologize.

The members who came up with the award attended the meeting and explained how it happened. Also attending was the award’s recipient, senior finance major Keri Nietupski. She is white.

An apology helps but isn’t enough, said Shanelle Smith, president of the Kent State NAACP chapter. She said she hopes the Chi Omegas will see that an individual’s words or actions still reflect on an organization, regardless of the context.

She said she needed to consult with other members of the NAACP about future steps.

BUS President Sasha Parker said the incident showed the power of stereotypes.

“You have been pigeonholed by the actions of a minority in your group,” Parker said. “Welcome to my world.”

Parker said she thought the meeting was a first step but any real resolution to the situation would come through a process of an understanding of racial sensitivities.

“I hope it will be the last time something like this happens,” she said. “I will go out there and say: This is the last time this will happen.”

Della Marie Marshall, associate director of the Center for Student Involvement, said the meeting went well.

“People were being honest,” she said. “It allowed for people to talk.”

The award came to light when Candice Poole, student manager for the organization catering the formal, contacted the president of Zeta Phi Beta, a black sorority. The president then contacted Marshall, the adviser to Zeta Phi Beta, before calling the NAACP and BUS.

Poole, senior biology major, was at yesterday’s meeting.

“It will take time to come to a resolution that helps all of the Kent State community,” she said, “not just the white community and the black community.”

Participants said another meeting would be scheduled but hadn’t set a time.

Contact minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].