Due to the current climate, the president of Gallaudet University has put forth a public announcement for our community stating she felt it was necessary to immediately suspend Kappa Gamma and investigate the histories of other on-campus fraternities and sororities to determine if similar actions need to be taken. The public announcement was obtained from an e-mail she sent out to Gallaudet University students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members, and yet it was not posted to Gallaudet University’s official website for reference.

Concerns have been raised that if Gallaudet University lifts the suspension on Kappa Gamma and other fraternities/sororities without first ensuring that they have fulfilled specific conditions on an ongoing basis to reflect a true change of the dynamics within, systemic racism will continue. Read on below.

Dear students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members:

As I shared with our campus community yesterday, we are at a threshold moment. We are being called to deepen our demonstration of our commitment to the work of dismantling racism, particularly with our post-George Floyd burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement that has spread beyond my home community of Minneapolis and Saint Paul to the world. Two weeks ago, on Monday, May 25, our communities had a choice to push George Floyd’s death under the rug, or to express the outrage and determination to tackle systemic racism stopping the harm and violence toward black people in this country. Our nation and our world has made a choice mostly in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement includes more people than any other movement for civil rights has called to action in our history.

Gallaudet University is also at this threshold moment now. We have a choice to publicly stand in ways that propel us across the threshold, particularly with more difficult and complex issues we face with dismantling systemic racism.

Over the past few days, with the SBG/BSU Town Hall last Friday, we became aware of new information that led to renewed demands for change with Kappa Gamma, a fraternity with a long history at Gallaudet. 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. 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. As President, I am convening diverse leaders on campus to develop a plan to review and understand the role of fraternities and sororities at Gallaudet. I will make this plan public.

This public plan will embark us on a journey to develop an approach that holds the values and principles of Gallaudet University and the 13 principles of Black Lives Matter, both of which embrace the use of restorative justice approaches to transformation and healing. It will also embrace the principles and practices of multicultural organizational development (MOD), which is one of Gallaudet’s priorities in our EDI plan. These values and principles will hold us as we step over this threshold as a community, particularly through the most difficult moments where we will be reminded of the pain and costs of our history and the depth of work at all levels that will be required to move forward.

Members of my family have been involved in Gallaudet fraternities and sororities. My father was a member of Kappa Gamma, my mother was in Phi Kappa Zeta, and my sister is in Delta Epsilon. My spouse Mary and I were inducted into Phi Kappa Zeta and Delta Epsilon as honorary members the fall after I entered this role. (It is customary for Gallaudet presidents and their spouses to be invited to join campus Greek organizations.)

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. 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.

There are many areas of work for Gallaudet University and later this week I will be issuing a communication which addresses our broader efforts.


Roberta J. Cordano