TAMPA, Fla — The University of South Florida has launched an investigation into multiple alleged incidents in which student fraternity and sorority members were involved in antisemitic and racist acts.
In a letter from USF's Dean Danielle McDonald that 10 Tampa Bay was able to obtain, she stated the university was notified about "several concerning allegations" involving USF students.
Student Conduct and Ethical Development (SCED) has launched an investigation into four reported instances including the placement of a swastika symbol on a member of a fraternity, an anonymous post on social media accusing a sorority member of racist behavior, an antisemitic post on social media allegedly posted by a fraternity member that minimized the tragedy of the Holocaust and retaliatory behavior from the fraternity and sorority accused of being involved.
"Actions such as these are reprehensible and deserve our condemnation," the letter stated.
The letter to the USF community continued saying the university "will address any behaviors that do not reflect USF's values."
Both of the fraternity and sorority organizations alleged to have some involvement with the antisemitic messages have released statements denouncing the allegations and are cooperative with the university.
"We would like to start off by stating that the members of Sigma Kappa Lambda Zeta at the University of South Florida do not tolerate racism, and work to make an inclusive environment for everyone," the sorority said in a statement on Instagram. The organization continued in the statement to say the member was suspended while an internal investigation took place.
In a second statement, Sigma Kappa said "new evidence" absolved the sorority sister from all accusations.
In the letter from McDonald, it was noted that as more information was unpacked in the investigation, "some individuals have been wrongly accused."
The fraternity alleged to be involved in the incident, Pi Kappa Phi, released a statement on the organization's Instagram account, inserting an apology.
"We apologize to the woman involved, Sigma Kappa, and the entire USF community for what has taken place. Pi Kapp values the human dignity of each person and actively stands against racism, misogyny, and harassment. When members do not live up to Pi Kappa Phi's values, we will work to hold them accountable."
The Pi Kappa Phi national fraternity released a statement following the allegations as well, stating the member was suspended pending a full investigation.
"Pi Kappa Phi has recently learned of behavior by individual members of our Zeta Eta Chapter at the University of South Florida. We are appalled by these behaviors and have suspended the members involved pending a full investigation. These behaviors are not representative of our fraternity or the chapter. Pi Kappa has zero tolerance for harassment and anti-Semitism, and we will hold any individual accountable for unacceptable behavior," the organization said.
The fraternity released another statement the following day claiming that a "non-member" had committed one of the acts.
USF's Center for Student Involvement and the Office of Multicultural Affairs are working with the leaders of both organizations to review their values and the university's "Principles of Community."
"USF embraces and celebrates diversity in all its forms. Anti-Semitism, racism, hate, and prejudice have no place here. We remain strong and united in our commitment to the Principles of Community in our pursuit of excellence," McDonald said at the conclusion of the letter to the USF community.
Erin Blankenship, interim executive director of The Florida Holocaust Museum, released the following statement:
“These allegations are deeply disturbing. Six million Jews, and millions of others, died as a result of the Holocaust, and to minimize that is an insult to all the victims and survivors. The Florida Holocaust Museum is working with the Jewish organizations on campus to educate students on the realities of the Holocaust in the hopes that they will learn why these actions are so highly problematic. We are inviting the fraternity to tour the Museum and speak with a Survivor, and we hope they will take us up on this opportunity.”