Mason v. Masonnby Matthew HoffmannThe ‘Dress a Sig’ Controversynat George Mason UniversitynThe members of George MasonnUniversity’s Sigma Chi fraternitynhad little reason to believe their annualn”Dress a Sig” fundraising event wasnpolitically incorrect. To those presentnlast April 4, the proceedings seemedninnocuous if a bit raucous. Participatingnsororities paraded members of SigmanChi in women’s clothing across a stage,neliciting hoots and applause from thenboisterous crowd of Greeks. Among thencontestants was a “Sig” whose correspondingnsorority had dressed him innblackface and strapped a pillow to hisnbackside. After the men strutted theirnstuff, the audience voted for the “ugliestngirl” in the bunch. The event helped tonraise over one thousand dollars for thenCleo Wallace Center, a home fornabused children.nIt is doubtful that Sigma Chi or thencooperating sororities had racist or sexistnintentions. With its 25 percent minoritynmembership, Sigma Chi is one of thenmost integrated fraternities on campus.nOne of its members, Archibald Kao, ofnOriental descent, is serving as the presidentnof George Mason’s student gov­nVITAL SIGNSnernment. Gamma Phi Beta sorority,nwhich dressed the fraternity member innblackface,’ has minority members innseveral leadership positions.nThe Greeks could not have knownnthey were inviting the wrath of GeorgenMason University. The event had beennapproved by university officials, and then”Dress a Sig” contest of the previousnyear had been conducted on universityngrounds without controversy, as had an”lip-sync” contest in which white participantsndressed in blackface.nThe participants in “Dress a Sig”nwere therefore surprised when, twonweeks later, enraged letters written bynvarious university officials and addressedn”to the campus community” appearednin university buildings, denouncing thenevent as “hurtful,” “offensive,” andn”insensitive.” One letter demanded thatnSigma Chi respond by showing “anwillingness of the membership to participatenin programs involving interculturalnand gender issues.” This was required,nthe letter threatened, “to substantiatentheir claim that Sigma Chi and thenGreek system at GMU are importantncontributors to the positive developmentnof campus life.” Dean of StudentnServices Kenneth Bumgarner informednthe participants that the incident wouldnbe investigated by the university.nMeanwhile, leaders of various studentngroups that claimed offense at thenevent had organized a closed forum,nmoderated by administration officials, tondiscuss the issue. At the “suggestion” ofnDean Bumgarner, Sigma Chi andnGamma Phi Beta agreed to participatenand sent several representatives. Thenfrightened Greeks, aware of the possibilitynof serious punishment, were notnallowed to speak; they sat quietly whilentheir fellow students excoriated them.nThe offended parties spoke interminablynof their suffering and demandednreparations from the Greeks. The factsnwere discountenanced; only emotionsnwere deemed legitimate topics of discussion.nAt one point, John Singsank,nthe president of Sigma Chi, was orderednto stand and face two minority membersnof his fraternity. “How do younthink you’ve made them feel?” he wasnnnasked angrily.nBy the end of the forum, the sororitynrepresentatives were in tears, confessingntheir guilt as they held hands for mutualnsupport. One of the sisters, herself ofnArab descent, babbled almost hysterically.n”I’m so sorry,” she sobbed. “I’m songuilty!”nThe S’gma Chi representatives,nArchibald Kao among them, apologizednrepeatedly and profusely in a frenzy ofnself-deprecation, calling themselvesn”stupid” and “ignorant.” RussellnHopler, co-president of the StudentnCoalition Against Racism and one ofnthe organizers of the forum, was sonshocked by the way the Greeks werenintimidated and humiliated that he recantednhis involvement.nThe written apologies of the offendingngroups, blown up and posted by thenuniversity for all to see, were equallynsubmissive and apologetic. “There is nonexcuse for our insensitivity and lack ofnforethought. We will never be able tonapologize enough for our behavior,”nwrote the president of Gamma Phi Betansorority. Sigma Chi strove to soundnpolitically corrected. “We now see theninsensitivity of our actions and have annew perspective on cultural issues,”nwrote Singsank.nTwo days later. Dean Bumgarner’sn”extensive examination” culminated inna decision. No formal hearing had beennconducted, and Bumgarner admitted tonthe Washington Post that no writtennrules had been violated. Nevertheless,nhe wrote in yet another posted letter,n”steps must be taken to ensure thatnthere is no repetition of this repugnantnconduct.” Sigma Chi was placed onnprobation for two years, during whichntime they are forbidden to conduct anynactivities, on or off campus. The GammanPhi Beta sorority was placed onnprobation for one year. “Our constitutionalnrights have been completelynthrown out here,” said Singsank. “Thenuniversity has taken away our freedomnof speech and our right to due process.nWe were never charged with anything.”nExceptions were made for the initiationnof new members, and events “withnSEPTEMBER 1991/51n