COLUMBIA, Mo. ― The University of Missouri temporarily suspended a fraternity on Wednesday over accusations of racial slurs directed toward black students, in the latest incident of racial tension that has roiled the campus for nearly a year.
The university action followed the national organization of Delta Upsilon fraternity, which suspended the chapter earlier on Wednesday.
The incident began late Tuesday night when a group of White students walked past two female members of the Legion of Black Collegians’ Activities Committee.
The legion said in a statement that one of the White students yelled a racial slur at the women, who then contacted other legion members. Police then arrived.
“It was at this moment, outside the Delta Upsilon Fraternity house, that while police were attempting to de-escalate the situation, members of the fraternity began recording the interaction, as well as shouting a variety of obscenities at the Committee,” the statement said. The legion said those obscenities included a racial slur.
Justin Kirk, executive director of Delta Upsilon International, said in a statement that the emergency suspension would be in effect while the incident is investigated.
“Racism and sexism have no place in our fraternity and we expect our members to be positive contributors to inclusive campus environments,” Kirk said.
The university statement on the fraternity’s suspension said that the chapter had been cited for other violations of campus policy, including alcohol violations.
A suspended fraternity cannot use university facilities or participate in campus activities such as Homecoming and social events, the university said.
The incident follows campus turmoil last year, when student protests over what some saw as administrators’ indifference to racial issues culminated in the resignations of some top university leaders in October.
The university said Wednesday that police have identified the students involved, and that the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Civil Rights & Title IX have been notified and “are taking appropriate action.”
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley said in a statement that he was “outraged and saddened” to hear about the incident. He said students who violate the university’s nondiscrimination policy can face expulsion.
“We have zero tolerance for actions like this,” Foley said.
Students gathered at the Black Cultural Center on campus Wednesday evening to talk about the incident, followed by a prayer service.
Many students declined to speak to reporters, explaining they weren’t comfortable speaking on behalf of other students of color.
But Tyler Jones, a freshman, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he hoped the meeting would be a first step toward students coming together.
“I don’t feel like fighting each other is going to fix anything, and that’s kind of like what we’re doing right now,” he said.