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Sorority Members Suspended for 80s-Themed Costumes

12:59 PM, Nov 15, 2011   |    comments
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- An objectionable wardrobe choice for a 1980s-themed costume party has landed six University of Southern Mississippi students in hot water with their sorority.

The national office of Phi Mu sorority has put the girls on probation after the circulation of a photo depicting all the girls in blackface makeup, with several wearing curly-haired wigs.

The girls had dressed up as the Huxtable family from the popular 1980s sitcom The Cosby Show for an off-campus party Nov. 9, Southern Miss officials said.

The Hattiesburg American received a reader-submitted photo of the girls in blackface Friday.

"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," Dean of Students Eddie Holloway said in a news release.

What "probation" means exactly is unclear. Phi Mu Fraternity National President Kris Bridges said Phi Mu does not make public specific disciplinary actions taken against individuals.

Bridges said in a news release that she is "deeply disappointed" in the actions of the girls but added she does not believe they had any "malicious intent."

"That is why some of the sanctions the members will face will include opportunities for education on this topic," she said.

Chapter sanctions include diversity and cultural competency educational requirements, including the sponsorship of a campuswide program with a nationally known speaker on diversity appreciation.

The sorority's executive officers and the six students in question met Sunday with African-American student leaders on campus.

"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 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 has 130 members at USM. There are 1,500 Greek life students on campus.

USA Today

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