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Friday, March 1, 2024
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Sigma Alpha Mu removes member over “culturally offensive” party

Fraternity apologizes, hopes to grow relationship with Iranian Student Association

Sigma Alpha Mu removed a brother from the fraternity after an event was created on Facebook that the Iranian Student Association called culturally insensitive.

The event, titled the “Draft Dodgers Darty!” was scheduled for Jan. 19 at 1 p.m. Leopold Harris, the president of the Delta Beta chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu, issued an apology on behalf of the fraternity in a statement emailed to The Eagle. Harris declined to name the removed member of the fraternity, stating that he did not want to violate his privacy.

Following a winter break filled with jokes about a looming World War III between the United States and Iran, which was a result of the Trump administration’s decision to assassinate Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian Student Association took offense to the event’s title and Facebook description. 

“I really didn't think they would be making a theme that would be so disrespectful,” said Mona Ghalbi, a member of the organization. “I thought they'd be a little more educated.”

The event’s location was set to Tehran, Iran, which is where many of the Iranian Student Association’s members’ families live. 

The ISA learned about the event through Ghalbi, a junior in the School of International Service. She posted screenshots of the invitation for the “darty” in the ISA's private Facebook group on Jan. 17.

Ghalbi was especially offended by the choice to tell invited members to “pack up [their] bone spurs and other excuses” within the party’s description, she said. 

“They were saying, ‘We're not going to get drafted because we're going to lie our way out of it,’” Ghalbi said. “‘We’re so privileged and lucky to do so, we’re being educated and we’ll have jobs so we don't have to serve.’”

The ISA’s E-board decided to contact University officials and publish a Facebook post to acknowledge they knew of the event and that it was culturally offensive. On Jan. 18, ISA President Omeed Ansari emailed Vice President of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence Fanta Aw and Primary Advisor for Interfraternity Council Travis Roberts to call attention to the event. 

ISA Vice President Tara Moslehi noted that the ISA’s E-board decided not to name Sigma Alpha Mu or any brothers in the fraternity in their public Facebook post. She said that the post was an acknowledgement to the school’s Iranian community and friends.

In an emailed response on Jan. 23, Roberts told the ISA that the University could facilitate a restorative justice circle, which would be a mediated conversation between the two organizations with a University official present. The ISA’s E-board members rejected Roberts’ offer and decided to speak with the fraternity directly through Harris. 

“When the school gets involved, they protect Greek life and they don't want to reprimand them,” said Lily Pourahmad, social media and outreach coordinator for the ISA, who is also a member of Alpha Chi Omega. “These boys and the AU community as a whole need to know that you can't make these insensitive jokes and receive no backlash.”

Roberts did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Moslehi said that she originally wanted to have a conversation with Sigma Alpha Mu members before emailing the University, but she changed her mind after speaking with other leadership members of ISA. 

“For them to not realize that this is problematic at all is shocking to me,” Ghalbi said. “You see how ignorant these people really are — that they can make a theme out of the potential suffering of real people.”

The ISA held a “Rug Talk” in The Bridge on Jan. 29, hoping to open up a conversation between Iranian and non-Iranian students about the current struggles of being Iranian American. Ansari said he hoped that members of Sigma Alpha Mu would see the invitation circulate on Facebook and attend “for a learning experience,” though he didn’t directly invite any brothers in the fraternity.

“It's been a tough start to the year with both of our countries being in such tense relationships,” Ansari said. “I’m the kind of person who’s going to be affected by a war. This event wasn’t the worst thing, but there was no empathy for us.”

Ansari, who is also a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, said that he was shocked to learn that Sigma Alpha Mu decided to remove the member who created the event when the two groups sat down for a conversation on Monday. “I didn't expect that,” he said, “I'm in Greek life, and I don't know if my organization would have done that.”

“The biggest problem to me is that people responded that they were going to this party,” Ansari said. “Think before you say you're going to [this event] if you say that you care about social justice. If you want to be on your woke AU shit and say you stand up for everybody, don’t respond ‘yes’ to this party.” 

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