The Sigma Pi fraternity at Cornell has been placed on interim suspension pending the outcome of an investigation of alleged racially motivated harassment Sunday morning. Under this suspension, the fraternity may not engage in any activities other than operation of their residence.
According to Cornell University Police (CUP), which was assisting the Ithaca Police Department, a group of black men and women reported that, as they were walking past the Sigma Pi house at 730 University Ave. shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday, May 6, subjects on the roof of the house threw bottles and cans at them and shouted racial insults.
Ithaca police are leading a criminal investigation, assisted by CUP. CUP reported the incident to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs and filed a Bias Activity report.
Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy denounced the incident on Monday in a message to the campus community, saying, "There is no place for this kind of behavior at Cornell University; we celebrate our diversity and expect all our members to respect one another." Murphy added, "Once we have completed a review of the incident, including who was involved, appropriate action will be taken and we will notify the community when that happens."
"The next steps would be determining if further judicial action should be taken or if the university should consider permanent revocation," said Travis Apgar, the Robert G. Engel Associate Dean of Students for fraternities, sororities and independent living. Apgar's office provides advice and support to fraternities, sororities and multicultural Greek-letter organizations, which are officially independent of the university.
Leaders of the Greek community also issued a statement decrying the incident and apologizing to those offended. "While we have much work left to do, we value diversity and promote an inclusive fraternity and sorority experience and refuse to allow the actions of a few to represent us all," they wrote. The Greek Judicial Board is prepared to convene before the end of exams to review the incident, they said.
Members of Sigma Pi reported that the person they say committed the alleged offense was not a member of the fraternity. Cornell Police confirmed that one person has been identified in connection with the incident, but said the IPD investigation was continuing.
Several multicultural organizations across campus have issued statements condemning the behavior and the incident.
Some reports have confused the Sigma Pi incident with a fight that occurred about an hour later on Thurston Avenue, involving three people not affiliated with Cornell.