UNIVERSITY PARK — The Penn State sorority whose members posed in a photo that surfaced this week mocking ethnic stereotypes has been put on probation by its parent organization.
Chi Omega leveled the sanctions against its Nu Gamma chapter at Penn State on Thursday and made the punishment effective Monday, when the photo showed up on a student blog.
“I am disappointed in the choices made by our Nu Gamma Chapter members, and we regret any pain caused,” said Chi Omega’s National President Letitia Fulkerson in a statement. “We are taking this situation very seriously. Chi Omega does not condone behavior that violates the organization’s policy on human dignity.”
The photo, taken at a Mexican-themed party around Halloween, shows more than 20 of the women posing for the picture, but two of them, with fake mustaches, are holding up the signs that have been widely criticized.
One sign says “will mow lawn for weed + beer” and the other says “I don’t cut grass I smoke it.”
It is not immediately clear what the provisions of the probation mean for the Penn State chapter of Chi Omega.
On Tuesday, the chapter’s president, Jessica Riccardi, apologized for the photo.
A Penn State spokeswoman said university officials were appalled at the behavior and intended to use it as a “teachable moment” to make them aware of diversity issues.
Fullerton said Chi Omega’s national staff would work closely with Penn State and its Greek student council to implement corrective measures.
On Thursday, university administrators including President Rodney Erickson, acting Athletic Director David Joyner, and the Vice President for Educational Equity Terrell Jones co-authored an open letter that was emailed to the university’s community and posted online. They urged the community to use the incident to reflect on diversity at the university.
“We must both celebrate our differences and embrace our common humanity. If we can do so, on our campuses and beyond, we will be better, our university will be better, and the world will be better,” the letter said.
The administrators said the incident caused them “feelings of deep disappointment and dismay,” but the students involved will not be punished because their behavior is protected by free speech.
“How any constituent groups or individuals in the (u)niversity could behave with such insensitivity or unawareness is a question we must both ask and answer,” the letter reads. “Our (u)niversity is a place of learning and discovery, and there certainly are lessons to be relearned, or even discovered for the first time, from these incidents.”
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.