What were they thinking?

Here’s the question we’re sure just about everyone on campus has asked this week: What was Chi Omega thinking?

For those who haven’t taken the time to dwell on the story of the sorority’s ill-fated April 8 formal, here’s the short answer – they weren’t thinking, and that was a really stupid thing to do.

By now, the story has not only made its way all over campus but also across the country. It’s even gone overseas. After The Associated Press picked up the story, it became available to newspapers, TV and radio stations in New York, Texas, California – even Germany.

Search “Kent State” and “Chi Omega” in Google News.

If you haven’t read the story in the Stater or any other Ohio paper, here’s the background.

During the awards ceremony at the Chi Omega formal in the Student Center Ballroom, a white Chi Omega member received the title of “Blackest Chi Omega.”

Senior biology major Candice Poole was catering the event as a student manager. She is also a member of Zeta Phi Beta, a black sorority, and after hearing the award, Poole felt like she “got slapped in the face,” she told the Stater.

Then the phone calls started.

Key members of Black United Students and Kent State NAACP were contacted, as was Sheryl Smith, director of the Center for Student Involvement.

Smith gave Chi Omega a “cease-and-desist” directive, which halts all social events and community service. The sorority may only hold business meetings with an adviser present.

Chi Omega then met with members of the groups involved the following Thursday to apologize.

The key parties said the meeting was a good start toward coming to an understanding about problems raised by the insensitive award.

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

After a disaster like that, we would hope Chi Omega is “looking to move forward.”

But are the rest of us?

We’d be remiss not to mention the Stater‘s problem last fall regarding race. We ran into trouble when we published a “humor” column that used the n-word. A good deal of well-deserved anger was directed our way.

We learned from it. Race matters. Comedy is difficult and relative, and racial jokes are a minefield.

BUS President Sasha Parker doesn’t think Chi Omega was being racist. Neither do we. But they surely weren’t thinking. What the incident does show is a lack of racial sensitivity and cultural understanding on the sorority’s part.

What we find most concerning is that the issue of race seems to lie just below the surface at this university, waiting until something like Chi Omega’s award happens.

Chi Omega is promising change. We hope the rest of us are thinking about it too.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.