University of Chicago Fraternity Members’ E-mails Tainted With Islamophobic, Anti-Black ‘Jokes’

By Sameer Rao Feb 04, 2016

In the latest version of a now-familiar story about university fraternity racism,  private e-mails from the University of Chicago’s chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity that were obtained by Buzzfeed News revealed members’ casual racism towards Muslims and African Americans. 

Buzzfeed News obtained a number of e-mails from between 2011 and 2015, sent to a listserv that reached chapter members and alumni, from a member who asked to remain anonymous. The fraternity, identified by a national spokesman as "a Jewish fraternity," has chapters all over the world. 

One e-mail, asking members to protest university stipends going towards its Student Government (SG), referred to a Muslim SG officer as a "terrorist." Others referred to an empty lot as "Palestine" and described "dynamite and C-4" as part of Islamic culture. 

Another e-mail advertised a "Marathon Luther King Jr. Day" celebration that entailed drinking at 9 a.m., eating dinner at a fried chicken restaurant and watching the movie "Black Dynamite." The e-mail contained the following lines: 

Reverend Marathon Luther King Jr. did more for our civil rights than any other leader during the civil rights era. Following the horrors of prohibition, the puritanical powers in control of the United States successfully stigmatized day drinking. This travesty flavored American life in many ways, leading to increases in domestic abuse, legitimate rape and worst of all oppression. MLK took a stand. He had a dream. He led a million man march on Washington in order to make his dream a reality.

Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen said to Buzzfeed: "The language used in these private emails is offensive, and it is not consistent with the University’s values or our strong commitment to ensuring that people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives can thrive on our campus."

Alpha Epsilon Pi national spokesman Jonathan Pierce offered the following promise of an investigation by fraternity leadership: 

"As a Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi is especially sensitive to hate speech and behavior towards any minorities," Pierce said. "Especially during these troubling times of increased anti-Semitism on college campuses, we are very aware of the harm that negative speech towards minority groups can do. We will investigate and, if necessary, work to educate the individual members about this issue."

(H/t Buzzfeed News