University of Chicago frat defends organization after racist, homophobic prank

Posted: Jun 13, 2013 9:12 PM CDT Updated: Jun 13, 2013 9:29 PM CDT
By Tisha Lewis, FOX 32 News reporter
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) –The University of Chicago is cracking down on a fraternity prank that was anything but funny: 79 boxes addressed to a name that when spelled backwards, reveals racial and homophobic slurs.
More than two decades of working at the United States Postal Service and Iran Becton, who believes the packages were directed towards him, says he’s never encountered this.
“I did agree with my postmaster Karen Shanks that I would not comment on it and I will let the investigation go ahead, but if the investigation does stall or take too long I will be contacting you guys,” USPS mailman Iran Becton says.
“The university has just always been a problem,” Becton’s wife, Rhodina, who also works for USPS, says.
FOX 32’s Tisha Lewis spoke with the president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity who says they are the victims.
21-year-old Peter Wilk says when the delivery was made, he told Becton: “We didn’t order these boxes. Someone is ordering them for our address but we don’t want them here.”
“He said, ‘well I have to leave them off because I can’t get to the rest of my delivery load and it’s my duty to deliver,'” Wilk recalls. “Our organization does not stand for racism or homophobia. We actually have African American brothers in the chapter and they are welcomed by all.”

“The Postal Service takes great pride in its diversity and in its employees. Even though this appears to be a prank that was not directed at our letter carrier, we are always concerned about the well-being of our employees, especially as they carry out their duties. For this reason the United States Postal Inspection Service is investigating the incident. The United States Postal Inspection Service wants to ensure first and foremost that our carriers feel safe and secure while delivering mail on their postal routes.”

“The United States Postal Inspection Service contacted the University on May 31, 2013 about a delivery of offensive packages to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. The University of Chicago Police Department cooperated fully with the federal investigation; the Chicago Police Department and the University’s Office of Campus and Student Life also were notified.
I sought a meeting with members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity; the students indicated that they did not know who had sent the packages, and we had no evidence pointing to individuals who might be responsible. As of our last contact this week with the USPIS, they said they have no suspects and have determined the matter to be non-criminal in nature. If we receive additional information on potential suspects, the University will continue to cooperate with federal authorities, and we will begin disciplinary processes if students were responsible.
The University of Chicago considers this a grave and deplorable incident that offends our community’s core values. Our institution has responded on many levels, including full cooperation with federal authorities in their investigation. We will continue to engage our students in education on diversity issues more broadly, and on why incidents such as this one are unacceptable.

Our commitments to diversity and respectful dialogue and behavior are part of the University of Chicago’s expectations for our community. We are committed to fostering a climate that respects diversity in all forms, including race, gender identity, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, or other aspects of identity. Giving voice to people of all backgrounds and viewpoints is vital to our University.
The U.S. Postal carrier in this case, Mr. Iran Becton, was the victim of a hateful act. Whether or not one of our students was responsible, we will raise awareness in our community that this sort of disrespect goes against everything we stand for. Teaching that is not limited to one incident – it’s an ongoing responsibility.
As part of our ongoing commitment to values of respect and free expression, this spring we launched a new, campus-wide diversity awareness campaign called “RISE – Reflect. Intervene. Speak. Engage.” We will put a focus on how our students’ privileges in life give them an added responsibility to approach others with respect and decency. As part of RISE, we will hold campus events throughout the year to explore issues related to diversity and respect. We will also continue to hold conversations with fraternity members about this specific incident when students return in the fall. Fraternities and sororities are not registered student organizations at the University of Chicago, but we engage with their students, who have the same rights and responsibilities as other members of our community.”
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