Editor’s note: This story includes expletives that would normally not be printed in the Kansan, but are relevant to this news story.
The president of the University of Kansas chapter of the Kappa Delta sorority was removed from her position after a video surfaced on social media over the weekend that included her using racist, anti-Asian rhetoric with two other members of the sorority.
The two other members, which includes another executive member, have either left the sorority or stepped down from their positions.
The video was posted to the Strip Your Letters Instagram account, an organization focused on dismantling racism in Greek life. The video includes audio of the president, vice president of membership and a KU senior in the Zeta Epsilon chapter of Kappa Delta making racist remarks about an Asian dentist. The video does not show any faces of the people speaking.
“What if she came from fucking Beijing? I don’t know where the fuck she just came from but I’m nervous as shit. I’m nervous as shit,” Vice President of Membership Maddie Hissong said in the video.
“My old [dentist] was an Asian couple and I mean they were fucking with me,” President Jackie Hitt continued in the video.
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This is a different kind of submission we received from several sources throughout the day. What you read as you scroll is the transcript of the video at the end which consists of several influential KU Kappa Delta members (including the president). This video was recorded prior to lockdown, but around the time the US started to hear about the looming pandemic. The discussion may have been behind a closed door, but this language and rhetoric is NEVER acceptable, especially not from chapter leaders who vow to stand with and for every one of their women, those of Asian heritage included. These ideas, actions and words only fuel anti-Asian racism and stereotypes, especially in context to COVID. We can’t stand for this in our community. We would also like to state that SYL has reached out to PHA, SFL staff, chapter advisors, nationals, and standards with the video attached. #stripyourletters
Hitt sent an apology Sunday to members of the chapter in response to backlash from the video.
“I want to immediately come out and say that I own the things I said; I will not deny that I said them and I am sorry,” Hitt said in her statement, later obtained by the Kansan. “I know that those words were wrong, I know that they were hurtful and I know that they have caused pain that I will never be able to comprehend.”
Hissong and the other member in the video have not said anything publicly.
Kappa Delta leadership released a statement Monday announcing the removal of one woman and the resignations of two. The video was taken in February, according to the statement, but leadership first saw it when it was posted on Friday and “did not sit on it for seven months and refuse to take action.”
Hitt was removed as president, according to an email sent by Kappa Delta leadership to members of the sorority, later obtained by the Kansan. Hissong vacated her position. The senior member resigned from the chapter.
The women in the video received messages threatening their lives and the lives of their families, leadership said in the email. They involved the Lawrence Police Department to handle any targeted threats.
“We will not tolerate bullying,” leadership said in the email. “There are additional legal developments regarding the situation that will soon come to light and that we will keep you posted on.”
It is unclear what legal developments the email was referring to.
Grace Reading, a senior from Kansas City, Missouri, and former member of the sorority, said the video was brought to the attention of the chapter’s standards chair adviser. That adviser told Sloan Sprau, the chapter’s standards chair, it was not something to worry about.
Sprau told the Kansan she chose to resign from the position because she was disappointed by the response from the sorority's housing corp and executive members.
Since the video surfaced, other members of the sorority expressed disappointment in the chapter’s leadership. Reading dropped Kappa Delta after seeing the video.
“I was interested to see how a lot of the women in my chapter kind of missed the point. It felt like they saw this post and thought, ‘Wow, this hurts Kappa Delta,’” Reading said. “But no, this hurts women of color, not you and your white friends.”
The Kansan reached out to the chapter’s vice president of public relations for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
Hitt and Hissong were removed from the KU Kappa Delta chapter officers page Monday afternoon.
KU’s Panhellenic Association President Brenne Ernst said PHA is taking steps to address the behavior of xenophobia and racism with the chapter and with the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life.
“The Panhellenic community must do better. Although, this instance does not reflect the true values of our organizations nor does it represent what our community stands for, it is an example of the obvious work that remains to be done in addressing xenophobia and racism that exist within our organizations,” Ernst said in an email to the Kansan. “We acknowledge we have much to repair as the harm done by this and other instances from our community’s past will take time to reconcile."