- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Sigma Chi fraternity has been suspended at Johns Hopkins University after it threw a “Halloween in the Hood” party that featured a skeleton pirate dangling from a rope noose on the roof of the fraternity house.

The invitation to the party, posted on the Web site Facebook, encouraged guests to wear “regional clothing from our locale” such as “bling bling ice ice, grills” and “hoochie hoops.”

Black Student Union (BSU) members, who protested Monday to call attention to the fraternity’s actions, said the appearance of a mock lynching and the language on the invitation highlighted the racial tensions at Johns Hopkins and the strained relations between the university and the surrounding community.

University officials suspended all the fraternity’s activities pending a full investigation.

President William Brody said he was “personally offended” and called the incident “deeply disturbing.”

“The invitation to this party represented a serious and unacceptable misjudgment on the part of the fraternity chapter that organized it,” Mr. Brody said. “We will move quickly to address that appropriately with the chapter.”

Protesters held signs with black-and-white photocopies of a historical lynching next to a picture of the fraternity’s skeleton.

“We need to educate the student body because apparently some people weren’t given much of a proper lesson in the history of our country,” said Yasmene Mumby, 20, a junior and BSU member.

The BSU sent a contingent of students to the party after they learned of the invitation, and those who attended said they saw white students dressed as pimps, prostitutes and slaves.

More than 100 students attended a lengthy and sometimes heated campus forum Monday night before a panel of top administrators.

Three men who identified themselves as Sigma Chi members stood up during the meeting and apologized for the actions of the author of the invitation, calling it shameful.

“I honestly believe that the vast majority of our brothers are apologetic,” said one member, who refused to identify himself to reporters.

He said he attended the party without reading the invitation and that without knowing the theme, it appeared to be a normal Halloween party.

Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, president of the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he intends to explore legal action against both the fraternity and the university.

“We’ve got to address the problem of racism on this campus,” Mr. Cheatham said. “If the school is not willing to clear up this problem, then we will.”

A few students who encountered the protesters questioned why the incident was such a big deal, but many agreed that the party was out of line.

“You can’t have parties like that,” said Ben Raymond, 21, a senior, wearing a sweat shirt bearing the Greek letters of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. “This is blatant racism.”

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