Sorority responds to backlash over ‘homeless’-themed party

A party thrown Thursday by a Marshall University sorority has prompted questions after the party’s theme was brought to the attention of the broader student body.

The Gamma Beta chapter of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority are now facing backlash from some Marshall students after photos were shared over social media of students dressed as though they were homeless.

Alpha Xi Delta President and senior elementary education student Sasha Tackett responded to student concerns in a Sunday statement. Tackett said the theme had been approved by Marshall’s Fraternity and Sorority Life and that Alpha Xi Delta has come to recognize the insensitivity of the event.

“The Gamma Beta chapter of Alpha Xi Delta recently participated in a university-approved social event with a fraternity here at Marshall,” Tackett said. “As is typical with these types of social events, a theme was chosen and approved by MU Fraternity and Sorority Life. Upon reflection, the chosen theme was insensitive and unkind. This incident does not represent the values upon which our sorority stands, and it was never our intention to hurt or offend anyone. Moving forward, our chapter will strive to better embody the values of community service and inspiring women to realize their potential.”

News of the party was largely spread on social media. After hearing of the theme and seeing a photo of one of the members dressed up for the event on his Instagram feed, one Marshall student said he knew he had to share it with his friends.

“When I first heard through the grapevine that a party was happening involving students dressing up as homeless people as a party theme, I was appalled,” Bradley McCoy, a senior psychology major and Huntington native, said.

McCoy said he found the theme insensitive because he knows multiple Marshall students who have grappled with homelessness. Many students, he said, have had or currently have homeless parents.

“These students have been lucky enough to overcome severe barriers and attend Marshall because of mentors, scholarships and financial aid,” McCoy said. “There are people at Marshall who have dedicated their careers to aiding at-risk populations such as this. They will tell you it’s not funny and it’s not a costume.”

McCoy shared the photo he had found on Instagram with a friend of his who shared it on Twitter, posting alongside the photo a commentary on her beliefs of the situation.

“When I saw it, I knew I had to say something about it,” Emily Caplinger, a senior political science and communication studies double major, said. “I have called Marshall home for four years, and for something this insensitive and poorly thought out to happen makes me wonder what kind of values Marshall is instilling in its students.”

The issue is compounded, Caplinger said, by Huntington’s ongoing drug epidemic, which makes homelessness a reality for certain individuals in the community. To Caplinger, “there should be some precautions taken when dealing with such a sensitive topic.”

Tackett, as well as other members of Alpha Xi Delta, have been in contact with Caplinger, discussing the matter in more depth. According to Caplinger, the two parties are reaching an understanding on both sides of the situation.

Breanna Francis can be contacted at [email protected].