May 8, 2012

Fraternity suspended over reported racial harassment incident

Cornell Responds

A series of conversations addressing bias has been scheduled over the course of May 9.

An open community forum to discuss the issues raised is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. May 9 in G10 Biotech. Sheri Notaro, associate dean for inclusion and professional development, will moderate a panel that includes Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services; Kent Hubbell, dean of students; Kathy Zoner, chief of Cornell Police; and Renee Alexander, associate dean of students and director of intercultural programs.

Other events include:

• Perseverance in Spite of Injustice, with Dr. Keba Rogers, counselor with Gannett Clinic Community Consultation and Intervention, 11:30 a.m., 626 Thurston

• Beyond Black and White: Effects in Other Communities, with Candace Chow, assistant director, Cornell Student Alumni Mentoring Program, 1 p.m., 626 Thurston

• Responding as an Aspiring White Ally, with Matthew Carcella, director, LGBT Resource Center, 2 p.m., 626 Thurston

• A Truly Inclusive Greek Community, with Travis Apgar, associate dean of students for fraternities, sororities and independent living, 3 p.m., 626 Thurston

• Understanding Campus Climate, with Patricia Nguyen, director, Asian and Asian-American Center, 4 p.m., 626 Thurston

• Academic Persistence in the Face of Discrimination, with Nicolle Brazil, MA-NYS Opportunity Programs counselor, 3 p.m., 200 CCC

The Sigma Pi fraternity at Cornell has been placed on interim suspension pending the outcome of an investigation of alleged racially motivated harassment Sunday morning. Under this suspension, the fraternity may not engage in any activities other than operation of their residence.

According to Cornell University Police (CUP), which was assisting the Ithaca Police Department, a group of black men and women reported that, as they were walking past the Sigma Pi house at 730 University Ave. shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday, May 6, subjects on the roof of the house threw bottles and cans at them and shouted racial insults.

Ithaca police are leading a criminal investigation, assisted by CUP. CUP reported the incident to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs and filed a Bias Activity report.

Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy denounced the incident on Monday in a message to the campus community, saying, "There is no place for this kind of behavior at Cornell University; we celebrate our diversity and expect all our members to respect one another." Murphy added, "Once we have completed a review of the incident, including who was involved, appropriate action will be taken and we will notify the community when that happens."

"The next steps would be determining if further judicial action should be taken or if the university should consider permanent revocation," said Travis Apgar, the Robert G. Engel Associate Dean of Students for fraternities, sororities and independent living. Apgar's office provides advice and support to fraternities, sororities and multicultural Greek-letter organizations, which are officially independent of the university.

Leaders of the Greek community also issued a statement decrying the incident and apologizing to those offended. "While we have much work left to do, we value diversity and promote an inclusive fraternity and sorority experience and refuse to allow the actions of a few to represent us all," they wrote. The Greek Judicial Board is prepared to convene before the end of exams to review the incident, they said.

Members of Sigma Pi reported that the person they say committed the alleged offense was not a member of the fraternity. Cornell Police confirmed that one person has been identified in connection with the incident, but said the IPD investigation was continuing.

Several multicultural organizations across campus have issued statements condemning the behavior and the incident.

Some reports have confused the Sigma Pi incident with a fight that occurred about an hour later on Thurston Avenue, involving three people not affiliated with Cornell.