UPDATE: The Sun's article apparently misquoted the administration, erroneously claimed that the college had issued no response, and misattributed blame liberally. Here is the U of C's response:
Mary Mitchell’s June 13 Chicago Sun-Times column, ‘U. of C. frat’s racist prank not funny,’ failed to include a response from the University of Chicago, which we provided before her deadline. The column and its headline are misleading, especially in the unsupported claim that University of Chicago students carried out this extremely offensive act, and the false implication that the University did not respond...
The United States Postal Inspection Service contacted the University on May 31, 2013 about a delivery of offensive packages to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. The University of Chicago Police Department cooperated fully with the federal investigation; the Chicago Police Department and the University’s Office of Campus and Student Life also were notified.
I sought a meeting with members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity; the students indicated that they did not know who had sent the packages, and we had no evidence pointing to individuals who might be responsible...
The University of Chicago considers this a grave and deplorable incident that offends our community’s core values. Our institution has responded on many levels, including full cooperation with federal authorities in their investigation. We will continue to engage our students in education on diversity issues more broadly, and on why incidents such as this one are unacceptable...
The U.S. Postal carrier in this case, Mr. Iran Becton, was the victim of a hateful act. Whether or not one of our students was responsible, we will raise awareness in our community that this sort of disrespect goes against everything we stand for. Teaching that is not limited to one incident—it’s an ongoing responsibility.
In today's "hideously ignorant frat boys commit deranged act" news, the Phi Delta Theta fraternity at the University of Chicago recently made a U.S. Postal carrier lug 79 boxes to their door that were marked with racist and homophobic names. Is this the sort of thing that the young minds of America are getting into? If so, let me just say once and for all that I give up. We are a nation of little pigs.
According to Iran Becton, the postal carrier:
“About a week after Memorial Day, I had an order to bring 79 of the boxes. I came to the address and explained to the frat member that I would have a lot more supplies. I went back to the truck for the boxes about six or seven times."
After Becton finished his final trip, one of the frat guys informed him that it was all just a practical joke. Another of the frat members added that Becton should read the name on each package backwards, and then he would "get the joke" himself.
Here is the joke: all 79 boxes were addressed to "Reggin Toggaf." Spelled backwards, it's a racist and homophobic slur.
There is a lot about this story that's baffling and sickening. Probably the most vile aspect is the fact that someone could casually turn to another human after making him engage in grueling and completely meaningless labor — that someone had arranged in order to demean and insult him — and say, "Do you get it? It's a joke! On you!" What kind of creature do you have to be to think that's in any way acceptable? How completely blinded by callous, thoughtless privilege must you be?
According to Mack Julion, the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 11, "Their contention was it was a practical joke, but we don’t think it was funny, the letter carrier doesn’t think it was funny, and it doesn’t reflect well on the university." The fraternity alleges that the "joke" was being played on them by another frat and wasn't meant to offend Becton. Because it makes perfect sense that someone wouldn't be at all miffed after being subjected a pair of hateful epithets by a pack of 20somethings for whom he was performing a service.
Despite Becton's appeals to both the university and to the Postal Inspection Service, no substantial disciplinary action has been taken against the infantile louts — although a statement from the University has condemned the prank as "deplorable."
As of now, the frat's mail service has has been put on hold pending a written apology to Mr. Becton. "[I visited the fraternity] on Saturday and I haven't heard back," says Julion.
UPDATE: According to CBS Chicago, it's clear that the prank was organized by another U Chicago frat — as the Phi Delta members alleged. Iran Becton was not its intended target, although it does appear from his account that no effort was made to stop him from delivering the boxes.
"Fraternity at University of Chicago involved in racist, homophobic prank" [Sun Times]
Image via phideltatheta.org