Racial inequity committee at heart of UNC Asheville sorority suspension

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 6, 2021

ASHEVILLE (AP) — A national sorority has suspended activities at a North Carolina university after most of its members left the school chapter when it failed to hold discussions on racial inequities following the death of George Floyd.

In August, 25 of the 28 members of the Zeta Tau chapter of Alpha Xi Delta at the University of North Carolina at Asheville dropped their memberships, the Asheville Citizen Times quoted some of the members as saying.

After watching protests unfold in response to Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis last year, several of Alpha Xi’s members of color sought to begin a diversity, equity and inclusion committee within the sorority. They had also asked the national office to investigate allegations of racism within the organization.

Former Alpha Xi member Kayla Bledsoe told the newspaper that she left the sorority after complaints of racism were not addressed. She said leaders, including Alpha Xi’s then-president, were opposed to the committee as soon as the idea was presented. The local organization eventually relented, but what ensued led to a call for an investigation.

During committee workshops, several white sorority members, including the president, showed disinterest and were often seen not paying attention, with their backs to the camera and doing other activities during the virtual meetings, Bledsoe said.

“I think it was just white people just not really wanting to talk about (race),” Bledsoe said. “I think it’s really uncomfortable when white people personally are being called out, like they get very uncomfortable and shut down.”

Alpha Xi’s former president declined a request from the newspaper for comment.

“Alpha Xi Delta takes all allegations of racism and antisemitism seriously,” the newspaper quoted Lauren Felts, Alpha Xi Delta spokeswoman, as saying. “We do not tolerate racism or antisemitism of any kind, and we condemn all acts of bigotry, violence and hatred.”

The sorority didn’t specify whether the departures or the failure to form the committee triggered the suspension, and Felts didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment on Tuesday.

Because of the departures, Alpha Xi is no longer an active sorority on UNCA’s campus. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Bill Haggard said in a statement that the university supports the decision to pause the chapter.