Chi Omega suspended for event award

Bryan Wroten

Following reactions by black student groups over an award at its formal, Chi Omega can no longer have social events pending an upcoming meeting.

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

Senior biology major Candice Poole was catering the event as a student manager for specials. She is also a member of Zeta Phi Beta, a black sorority. While at the formal, she said she didn’t see any other black women there.

“I felt like I got slapped in the face,” she said.

After the event, she said she asked a Chi Omega member at Glory Days what the award was about.

“She said, ‘Oh, you mean most ghetto?'” Poole said.

She said she contacted her president, Patrice DeLeon, about the matter the next day.

DeLeon said she contacted Sasha Parker, political officer and grievances chair for Black United Students; Shanelle Smith, president of Kent State NAACP; and Della Marie Marshall, associate director of Campus Life. Marshall had them speak to Sheryl Smith, associate dean of students and director of the Center for Student Involvement. The Panhellenic Council had members from BUS, the Kent State NAACP and Zeta Phi Beta attend its Monday meeting to discuss the issue.

There will be another meeting this week among the groups where they can all voice their concerns, Marshall said. A time and place for the meeting are not available at this time.

Sheryl Smith said she gave Chi Omega a cease and desist directive, which halts all social events and community service. It may only hold business meetings with at least one adviser present.

Chi Omega is not suspended or expelled, she said. The directive is a common step for her, Sheryl Smith said, when there is a relatively serious incident that needs a closer look. It stops all activity for the group to allow time for her to look into the matter and give the group an opportunity to deal with what happened.

She said the sorority will have a face-to-face meeting with the black student groups and offer an apology. She said there will also be racial and sensitivity training. There is a possibility of other student leaders taking such training, she added.

Parker, Shanelle Smith and DeLeon said they like the idea of sensitivity training because an apology isn’t enough.

Being a black woman, Parker said she has to live with stereotypes everyday. Having someone from outside her race perpetuate the stereotypes for entertainment makes them worse, she said.

“They didn’t think it was going to be a big deal,” she said. “It may have been all in good fun, but it wasn’t for us.”

Shanelle Smith said she wants some explanations at the meeting this week. She said she wants to know why Chi Omega had this award and what the exact requirements were to win “Blackest Chi Omega.”

“I’m going to tell them how it feels to be black,” she said. “It’s not something you can ever change. When someone offends us like that, we’re going to let you know.”

She added she was unsure if the sorority realized there are about 1,300 black students on campus. Having an award like that is ignorant and insensitive to them, she said.

Marisa Stroud, president of Chi Omega, had a statement from the national organization.

“There was an inappropriate comment made at a Chi Omega event last weekend,” she read. “We apologize to those who were offended. The chapter has reported the incident to the national organization. The national organization has investigated the situation and will take appropriate action with the chapter.”

Stroud said she could say nothing more at this time.

Marshall said the award, though not thought out well, was probably not meant to be malicious.

“People just weren’t thinking,” she said. “This is a teachable moment for all.”

Parker and Shanelle Smith said they didn’t consider it a racist issue. Instead, they said it was insensitive to the black community on campus.

Students need to realize blacks are people, not a fad or a style, Poole said. She said being black is not something someone can attain.

“What they don’t understand is there are other aspects to being black,” she said. “I am black 100 percent of the time, even when it’s not to my advantage.”

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