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Sorority in Miss. on probation over blackface costume

11:10 AM, Nov 15, 2011   |    comments
University of Southern Mississippi
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (USA Today) -- A sorority at the University of Southern Mississippi has been placed on probation after six members dressed up in curly-haired wigs and blackface for a 1980s-themed costume party to portray characters from The Cosby Show, The Hattiesburg American reports.

The national office of Phi Mu took the action after the photo, received by the newspaper last week, was circulated showing the young women in costume at an off-campus party.

"Though it is clear that these women had no ill intent, it was also clear that they had little cultural awareness or competency, and did not understand the historical implication of costuming in blackface," said Dean of Students Eddie Holloway in a press release.

He said the women involved "have been open, cooperative and contrite."

"We will use this as a teachable moment and motivation for dialogue on appropriate sensitivity and respect around issues of diversity," Holloway said.

The executive officers of the sorority, which has 130 members on campus, and the six students in question met Sunday with campus African-American student leaders, the newspaper says.

"We thought it important to begin an open dialogue immediately, and all those involved were not only cooperative but open, honest and candid," Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul said. "Though clearly without overt intent, this photo was offensive, insensitive and regrettable, and is counter to the rich appreciation for diversity that marks our student body."

(USA Today)

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