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Responding to racially offensive behavior at two Auburn University fraternity parties, Penn's Greek leaders yesterday released a statement condemning the students' actions while reiterating support for their own organizations.

At Halloween parties on Oct. 25 and Oct. 27, members of Auburn's Beta Theta Pi and Delta Sigma Phi fraternities donned the Blackface style that many white entertainers adopted in the early 20th century in order to play black roles, and one of the brothers was also pictured carrying a noose around his neck while another member was dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member.

A handful of students also wore jerseys from Omega Psi Phi, a traditionally African-American fraternity.

Though the event in question happened at the Alabama school, it sparked immediate reaction at Penn, leading the BiCultural InterGreek Council, InterFraternity Council and Panhellenic Council to release a statement calling the incident "unfathomable and completely inexcusable."

IFC president Mark Zimring said it concerns Penn Greek leaders that such blatant displays of racism still exist today.

"It's disturbing to know that even in the year 2001, we still see a racial divide among Americans, particularly in these trying times," Zimring said in an interview. "But at the same time, we think that it's imperative that we realize that Auburn is a very different school from our own."

Photographs of the Beta party featured members wearing Omega Psi Phi jerseys, and another wearing a straw hat and overalls, all in Blackface.

The Delta Sig party included a brother wearing mock FUBU clothing, a popular African-American line. The member wearing the mock FUBU shirt was shown with a noose around his neck. Other photographs captured rifles pointing at the member dressed as a black man, as well as a mock hanging.

Some punishment for the Auburn incident has already been handed down. Both the Beta and Delta Sig chapters at Auburn have been suspended and some offending members have been expelled from the fraternities. Further investigation is pending, and Auburn administrators will take action when the investigation concludes, tentatively, at the end of this week.

While BIG-C, IFC and Panhel representatives are quick to label the incident at Auburn as offensive, they said that it is important not to generalize or relate Penn fraternities to those involved in the Auburn incident. The statement also said Penn fraternities would never take actions similar to those of the Auburn fraternities.

"Unfortunately, it is easy sometimes to equate fraternities and sororities at other schools with their counterparts here at Penn, both because of the similarity in names and also because no matter the differences between individual chapters, all are Greek organizations and share many of the same basic characteristics," the statement said.

Panhel President Kristen Buppert said that while the incident did occur at another school, it was important that the statement reflect the sentiments of all three Greek umbrella groups at Penn.

"To a certain extent, all of our organizations are very similar, and we work with each other, and we support one another, and the issue was unacceptable to all of our organizations," the College senior said. "It wasn't any singular umbrella group or any singular chapter."

Zimring, also a College senior, added that the Penn Greek community has been looking for ways to combat racism and stereotyping for quite some time, and will continue to do so.

"For many years, we've been trying to address these issues," he said. "Minorities issues, whether it's ethnic minorities or sexual minorities, have always been a concern of ours."

The statement reaffirmed the three leaders' commitment to the Greek system and its efforts toward tolerance.

"Our Greek system is very strong," the statement said. "One of our major goals over the last several years, which will continue to be at the top of our agenda in the future, has been to break down long-standing stereotypes about member chapters and our umbrella groups."

The leaders went on to state that they and their member organizations are actively implementing programming such as open forums to discuss events such as the one at Auburn. They hope such strategies will help foster "open dialogue" and a "spirit of inclusion."

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