Gallaudet University, a private charter school for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C., suspended its Kappa Gamma chapter on June 9 after a past photo surfaced of fraternity brothers doing what appeared to be Nazi salutes.
According to The Daily Moth, a news site for the deaf and hard of hearing that is sponsored by Gallaudet University, a photo surfaced of Kappa Gamma members from 1988 holding their arms at a 90-degree angle. Among those in the photo “are some well-known members of the deaf community who hold important positions. Some of them have already posted apology videos,” per The Daily Moth.
he Deaf Vee Journal reported that university President Roberta J. Cordano announced in an email to community members that she decided that the fraternity needed to be suspended from campus.
“They have become the face of systemic racism in our community, with photographs of the salute and use of robes being shared on social media,” Cordano wrote. “This behavior is unacceptable. Gallaudet has now taken action to suspend Kappa Gamma on campus. We are in the process of reviewing other organizations and the status of their histories and their efforts to determine if further steps will need to be taken.”
She acknowledged that her father was once a member of Kappa Gamma.
“I am committed, and invite you to join, to cross the threshold to do this deep and complex work and the change that is required of all of us, whether we are directly or indirectly tied to these and other fraternities and sororities,” Cordano wrote. “I am also clear that this work must be taken up by all parts of Gallaudet — not just our Greek organizations — because, as an institution, we have a history of racism and bias that must be addressed.”
According to the The Daily Moth, the current Kappa Gamma chapter has condemned the prior photos containing racially insensitive material. It is the fourth time that the Gallaudet University chapter has been suspended.
Associate Dean and Director of the Ed Snider Social Action Institute Rabbi Abraham Cooper praised the university’s decision in a statement.
“We commend Gallaudet President Roberta Cordano for suspending Kappa Gamma for racially insensitive activities especially incendiary during a period when our nation is reeling from the wanton murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer,” Cooper said. “However, more must be done to remove the stain of racism and anti-Semitism. The Simon Wiesenthal Center joins the University Hillel and alumni in expressing our concern that as of yet there has been no official condemnation not only of racial insensitivity but of the anti-Semitic implications of unacceptable behavior by Kappa Gamma.”
He added: “We urge President Cordano to continue the reform process at one of our nation’s most unique and important institutions of higher learning.”
The university did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.
According to the Wiesenthal Center, Gallaudet University, which was founded in 1864, did not admit its first African American student until 1950.