Frat-racism charges run by Oglethorpe U.
School president criticizes 'taunting and harassment'
With allegations of racism dogging the Greek system across the state — a sorority accused of discrimination at the University of Georgia in September and Confederate flag-flying by a fraternity at Emory University last February — maybe it was only a matter of time until smaller colleges got into the fray.Last week, a member of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity at Oglethorpe University was disciplined for throwing an empty Gatorade bottle at an African-American athlete competing against Oglethorpe in a cross-country meet Sept. 29 at the school's Peachtree Road campus.
Oglethorpe President Larry Large refused to disclose the name of the student or how he was disciplined, citing the student's legal right to privacy.
The fraternity, however, will not be disciplining the student.
"It was just an empty plastic Gatorade bottle," says Matthew Breston, an elder brother in Delta Sigma Phi. "He was not throwing it at the runner. He was throwing it to a friend of his, and it hit the runner. This whole situation has been completely overblown, which is ridiculous."
Breston blames the hullabaloo on the appointment of Dr. Artie Travis, an African American, in January, to the position of dean of student life.
"A black school was running, and we have a new dean who is black and he is trying to make this racial," says Breston.
A member of Oglethorpe's chapter of another fraternity, Kappa Alpha, was considered for discipline by the Student Judiciary Council for allegedly yelling racial epithets at some of the runners but was exonerated of the charges.
On Oct. 13, Large sent a letter to students and faculty, which read, in part: "Recently, an unfortunate situation occurred on campus. We have reports that while athletes from a number of institutions were competing on campus, they were mistreated. I am disappointed the reports include allegations of discriminatory taunting and harassment of our guests. The judicial process was initiated immediately following the reports, and I have been in constant contact with Dr. Travis as the procedures have moved forward."
Earlier this year, Kappa Alpha's chapter at Emory University came under public scrutiny for flying a Confederate flag in defiance of President William Chace's order to refrain from behavior that might be offensive to minority students. The fraternity's national leadership is reviewing the incident. A member of Kappa Alpha also was shown in Emory's 1999 yearbook wearing what appears to be black-face makeup.
"I think the bad press from other chapters contributed to us having the finger pointed at us," says an officer of the Oglethorpe chapter of Kappa Alpha, who requested anonymity.
Large did not disclose which school the visiting athlete represented at the meet. Cross-country teams from six colleges attended: Clark Atlanta University, Huntingdon College, Morris Brown College, South Carolina University and Southern Wesleyan University.
Large says he has contacted the participating schools to reassure them that Oglethorpe does not condone racist behavior. Huntingdon College Spokeswoman Sue Ofe was unaware of any problems. Officials at the other competing schools did not return calls.
The student association has scheduled a forum for Oct. 18 at 11:45 a.m. so that students can discuss racial attitudes. Oglethorpe has about 800 undergraduate students, 10 percent of whom are African American, Asian or Hispanic. The private liberal-arts school, whose gothic-style campus is on Peachtree Road near Ashford-Dunwoody, has a total student population of less than 1,300.