U of M fraternity accused of using racial slur during charity event

Published: Mar. 17, 2018 at 4:49 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 19, 2018 at 5:16 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A fraternity at the University of Memphis has been accused of using a racial slur during a performance at a philanthropy event on campus Friday.

The event, also known as Pi Phi Karaoke, is put on by the Pi Beta Phi sorority. It is an annual event that raises money for children's literacy.

During the event, various sororities and fraternities perform a karaoke number to the songs of their choice.

In one performance, fraternity members of Sigma Phi Epsilon reportedly said the n-word, according to a several students in attendance.

"The song that they used was n-word in Paris. That's actually the name of the song," Jessika Williams, who was at the event, said.

Williams was offended and said she's upset the song choice was approved. She said her sorority requires performances be thoroughly vetted by the university before given clearance.

"We don't allow cursing during our performances, and we do not use the n-word on stage, so for a predominantly white organization or any organization period to use the n-word, it was very disrespectful and very inconsiderate," Williams said.

"No it wasn't the most graceful thing to do but I don't think it's for say wrong," a U of M student, who did not want to be identified, said. "It would've been better, yes, if they didn't do it at all, but they were just trying to have fun and there was no ill intent or harsh racism to it, so it shouldn't be harshly punished."

Jerica Phillips stopped by the Sigma Phi Epsilon house on Sunday to get their reaction. Eventually a member of the fraternity opened an upstairs window and said the organization didn't have a comment about the matter.

The U of M provided a document dating back to last fall showing violations by student organizations. None of them were from Sigma Phi Epsilon.

"Something needs to be done so it doesn't happen again," the unidentified student said.

"We're trying to achieve Greek unity, and we try to promote that. We want to be inclusive on campus, and it's hard to do those things when incidents like this happen," Williams said.

The University of Memphis released a statement regarding the incident Saturday:

The University of Memphis was made aware of allegations involving racial and bigoted language exhibited by a fraternity member at a student event. Racism and bigotry will not be tolerated. All allegations are currently being thoroughly investigated, and if found to be accurate, immediate steps will be taken to address the behavior with the individual, local chapter and national organization. The University of Memphis takes seriously all such behavior and has the strongest of commitments to continuing efforts to educate our campus community.

Students plan to hold a silent protest on campus from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. Monday. There will also be a "campus reflection and community conversation" hosted by the Student Leadership and Involvement office Monday evening at 7 p.m.

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