Chi Omega chapter closed a year after inappropriate photo posted

bmilazzo@centredail.comFebruary 12, 2014 

— A Penn State sorority chapter on probation since December 2012 for an alleged racially offensive photo that was posted online was shut down Tuesday.

The move to close Chi Omega’s Nu Gamma chapter at Penn State was a decision between the Chi Omega national organization and Nu Gamma chapter members, said Meaghan DeMallie, Panhellenic Council president at Penn State.

A photo was released late in 2012 of a group of young women dressed in ponchos and sombreros, wearing fake mustaches, and holding signs that read “will mow lawn for weed + beer” and “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it.”

Letitia Fulkerson, Chi Omega’s national president, said the move to shutter the local chapter was done to protect the national organization.

“The decision to close a chapter is the most difficult decision the governing council faces,” Fulkerson said. “The national organization has worked closely with this chapter on both educational and operational directives, particularly regarding risk management and bystander behavior. Unfortunately, these concerns continue to persist, and the Governing Council must close Nu Gamma chapter for the safety of our members.”

The Chi Omega National Organization originally placed its Nu Gamma chapter at Penn State on probation due to “members portraying inappropriate and untrue ethnic stereotypes.”

“I am disappointed in the choices made by our Nu Gamma Chapter members and we regret any pain caused,” Fulkerson said in a statement. “We are taking this situation very seriously. Chi Omega does not condone behavior that violates our organization’s policy on human dignity.”

Fulkerson said Chi Omega expects its members to “share and promote the belief that self-respect, esteem, and a respect for others are necessary ingredients for healthy relationships with all members of the Penn State community.”

Chi Omega’s national staff worked with the university and Penn State Panhellenic Council to implement corrective educational directives for the chapter. DeMallie said Chi Omega officials were on campus throughout the week conducting member evaluations.

Whitney Heckathorne, director of marketing and public relations at Chi Omega’s headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., released a statement that said members of Nu Gamma chapter have participated in activities that are not congruent with Chi Omega’s values and purposes.

“Chi Omega alumnae volunteers and executive headquarters staff members have worked closely with the chapter members to provide the highest level of support in order to move the chapter forward,” Heckathorne said. “However, many members did not adhere to the mandated requirements.”

When asked if the sorority shutdown would be permanent, Penn State spokeswoman Annemarie Mountz said the future of the Nu Gamma chapter has not been determined.

“We will work closely with the Chi Omega national sorority staff to create a plan for the chapter’s return to Penn State at some point in the future,” Mountz said. “The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life will work closely with the Panhellenic Council to address the future goals and objectives of the panhellenic community that will focus on the issues that resulted in the closure of the Nu Gamma chapter.”

Founded in 1895, Chi Omega is the largest women’s fraternal organization in the world with more than 300,000 initiated sisters and 176 collegiate chapters. The Nu Gamma Chapter of Chi Omega was chartered at Penn State in 1926, Heckathorne said.

The sorority was housed in Lyons Hall and had 83 members, DeMallie said.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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