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University of Maryland Investigating Student Email Containing Slurs

by JESSIE KARANGU and LAURYN FRONEBERGER

A fraternity member at the University of Maryland is in trouble after an email he sent 15 months ago containing racial and sexist slurs was leaked to the public.

The email, signed “A.J. Hurwitz, University of Maryland, College Park,” was sent to six of his fellow brothers in reference to plans for rush week.

Courtesy: Twitter
Courtesy: Twitter

University President Wallace Loh responded to concerns from students regarding this email in a statement released late Thursday night. In his statement, Loh said that the views expressed in this email were “reprehensible.

We immediately met with the individual involved and a University investigation is currently underway, led by the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct.

Loh also held a Twitter chat with students earlier this afternoon where he stated, “There are times when I feel compelled to speak out as a person, and not as a university president. This is one of those times.”

Kappa Sigma, the fraternity involved in this incident, says after UMD’s chapter learned about the email, the student was suspended. They’ve also stated that the chapter is working to formally expel this individual.

The language and views expressed in the email were inexcusable and are in stark contrast to the values of Kappa Sigma Fraternity. They are counter to everything Kappa Sigma stands for. This action by a single individual is in no way representative of the culture or diversity of Kappa Sigma’s chapter at the University of Maryland, nor the character of the general fraternity’s nearly 20,000 undergraduate and more than 220,000 living alumni members.

A member of Kappa Sigma alerted UMD’s Interfraternity Council about the incident on Thursday, according to a letter posted on Twitter. It is unknown whether Kappa Sigma was required to alert IFC or the university about disciplinary action taken against the individual back when it was handed down in 2014 or whether they are allowed under IFC bylaws to keep situations private for as long as they want. We reached out to IFC for comment but they did not respond by press time. Kappa Sigma referred us to their statement.

President Loh says that the university will be providing an educational training on diversity and respect for the whole fraternity. University chief communications officer Crystal Brown also tells us that they first learned about this email on Tuesday after a staff member received the same screenshot that has spread across social media.

They then began their investigation which confirmed the e-mail was real. President Loh did not release a statement when the university learned of this matter because the university was still in the midst of their investigation which as of now is currently ongoing. The email’s leaking prompted a response from Loh.

Pulsefeedz’s Lauryn Froneberger spoke with Andrew Mayton, co-president of the Asian American Student Union, about the University’s response to statements chalked on McKeldin Mall.

Pulsefeedz has also learned that the NAACP together with UMD Social Justice Coalition are forming legislation to present President Loh which would require rush interests to go through diversity training. The groups are currently configuring what this training would entail but it is expected to revolve around a workshop.

Many students across social media have called for the email’s author to be expelled from the University of Maryland but it is unclear whether this message would be enough to suffice that kind of action. We spoke with Andrea Goodwin, director of student conduct at the University of Maryland, who says the Supreme Court has made it clear that the most vile, hurtful speech is protected under the First Amendment therefore it is not a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.

“If there are any known direct threats or if a hostile environment is fostered, our office in conjunction with the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct and the Department of Public Safety may pursue further action. Please be advised all matters are evaluated on a case by case basis,” Goodwin said.

The university is also currently investigating how the email leaked online. According to sources, a student checked out a computer on campus Tuesday which was already logged in to the author’s GMail account with conversations that used the N-word only displayed. The student then sent the message to some friends and it spread further before reaching Twitter.

Because the culprit of this email has been identified on social media, the university has kept in contact with the student to ensure safety precautions are intact. Brown tells us that student organizations across campus are expected to have a Greek life forum after spring break is over to discuss this matter further.

The student, who worked on campus, has since been released from his job according to multiple sources who asked to remain anonymous. Stories Beneath the Shell spoke with a co-worker who said he was shocked.

“I was just trying to understand why he would say something like that.”

This incident comes to the surface after a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma was caught using racial slurs during a bus trip on video. Kappa Sigma’s Duke chapter was also involved in a racially-insensitive controversy back in 2013.

Stories Beneath the Shell’s Jatara McGee and Mia Simon also contributed to this story. This story has been updated to give readers UMD IFC’s reaction to the incident and Crystal Brown’s correct title.

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