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Newsletter > January 2003 > "BLACK FACE CONTROVERSY REDUX"
BLACK FACE CONTROVERSY REDUX
Timothy M. Burke, Manley Burke, email@example.com
Two of the University of Virginia’s oldest fraternities – Zeta Psi and Kappa Alpha – hosted a Halloween party in 2002 at which at least three costumed students painted their faces black or brown. The Washington Post reported that Larry Wiese, the Executive Director of the Kappa Alpha Order, called the conduct “wrong and offensive” and that Richard Breeswine, the Executive Director of Zeta Psi, while indicating that he did not believe the intent was racist said “this was still a grossly insensitive thing to do.”
As was discussed in the January and March 2001 issues of Fraternal Law, whether or not a public university like the University of Virginia can punish the chapter or members involved in wearing blackface is a legitimate First Amendment question. On the other hand, national fraternities are not limited by the First Amendment when taking action against their members. The national fraternities must follow their own statutes, constitutions and bylaws and can impose sanctions for violations of their own rules, including rules which are no more specific than prohibiting conduct which brings discredit upon the fraternity.