Posted on February 7, 2013

Duke University Fraternity Under Fire for Asian-Themed Party

Kelly Poe, News Observer, February 6, 2013

A Duke University fraternity has been suspended from its national affiliation after complaints about a themed party last week that featured Asian stereotypes.

About 200 Duke students gathered Wednesday to protest the Kappa Sigma party, which was held Friday. The party originally was called “Asia Prime” in social media posts that featured references to drinking sake and an exaggerated, stereotypical language, such as saying “Herro” instead of “Hello.”

In response to student complaints, the fraternity changed the party theme to “International Relations” two days before the event. Still, photos from the party showed mostly white students wearing sumo wrestler costumes and chopsticks in their hair.

That was enough to inspire Duke senior Ting-Ting Zhou, president of the Asian Students Association, to help organize Wednesday’s protest.

“My parents gave up everything they had in China to come here to give me a better life: their language, their culture, their educational recognition, their careers,” Zhou said. Other students “can pretend to be Asian for this one night, for this one party, but I have to be Asian my whole life. It trivializes me! It makes me feel like less than a human being.”

The national Kappa Sigma Fraternity suspended the Duke fraternity’s charter Wednesday pending an investigation, which should be finished in about two weeks, said Mic Wilson, national executive director. {snip}

“We certainly do not condone” the party, Wilson said. “Kappa Sigma is a very diverse organization, and we celebrate that. We have members from every walk of life, every culture, and we have a lot of brothers in our fraternity who are Asian-American.”


At Wednesday’s protest on the lawn in front of Duke Chapel, students stood around a sign several feet high that bore the message “Race is not a party.”

“A common counterargument we get is, ‘OK, if it had been an ‘America’ party, which people do hold, then it would be OK,’ ” said Xiaohan Cai, a junior public policy major who participated in the protest. “But that’s not a marginalized group, so the context is very important.”

According to Duke’s website, 22 percent of the undergraduate population was Asian-American in 2008, the last year statistics were available.