THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI:
The University of Southern Mississippi's Dean of Students office has confirmed that six women, all members of Phi Mu Sorority, dressed in blackface in order to depict themselves as the Huxtable family from "The Cosby Show," as part of their participation in a 1980s-themed, off-campus costume party on Wednesday.
"Though it is clear that these women had no ill intent, it was also clear that they had little cultural awareness or competency, and did not understand the historical implication of costuming in blackface," said Dean of Students Dr. Eddie Holloway.
The University is working with Phi Mu National Sorority in response to the incident.
"The conduct of these members in no way reflects the values and standards of Phi Mu Fraternity," Phi Mu National President Kris Bridges said. "Our chapters are expected to abide by our policies and uphold a values-based culture. I am deeply disappointed by the actions of these members in their choice of costume for the social event."
The dean's Greek Life staff met over the weekend with sorority leadership, their alumnae advisors, as well as a representative of the Phi Mu National Sorority.
"The women involved have been open, cooperative and contrite. We will use this as a teachable moment and motivation for dialogue on appropriate sensitivity and respect around issues of diversity," Holloway said.
The six women have been placed on probation by the national sorority and chapter sanctions will include multiple diversity and cultural competency educational requirements. The executive officers of Phi Mu and those members in the photo also met on Sunday evening with a group of Southern Miss African-American student leaders.
"We thought it important to begin an open dialogue immediately, and all those involved were not only cooperative but open, honest and candid." Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Joe Paul said. "Though clearly without overt intent, this photo was offensive, insensitive and regrettable, and is counter to the rich appreciation for diversity that marks our student body."
Phi Mu Fraternity Response to Alpha Omicron Chapter's Social Event
PEACHTREE CITY, GA. — On Wednesday, November 9, 2011, the Alpha Omicron Chapter of Phi Mu Fraternity held an "80's" themed social event at an off campus location, in Hattiesburg, Miss. The Fraternity regrets to share that at this event, six collegiate members of the Alpha Omicron Chapter dressed in blackface as the Huxtable family from the situation comedy, "The Cosby Show."
National President Kris Bridges, DN, Michigan State University, said, "The conduct of these members in no way reflects the values and standards of Phi Mu Fraternity. Our chapters are expected to abide by our policies and uphold a values-based culture. I am deeply disappointed by the actions of these members in their choice of costume for the social event."
Phi Mu Fraternity has a policy on human dignity, adopted at the 1986 National Convention, which states in part, "Phi Mu Fraternity seeks to promote all that is honorable and just, rejecting that which is demeaning and destructive" and "each chapter provides educational programming which fosters appropriate social skills."
Effective immediately, these six individual members of the Alpha Omicron Chapter have been placed on probation pending further investigation and possible further disciplinary action.
In an effort to learn from this incident, the chapter will sponsor a campus-wide program at the University of Southern Mississippi with a nationally-known speaker on diversity appreciation and there will be individual educational requirements for every chapter member who attended the social event.