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Fraternity adjusts traditions

Amanda Peterson

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Thomas Williams, president of the UA chapter of Kappa Alpha, said in a statement Thursday that the members chose to cancel the Old South parade after deciding that it was not “in congruence with our values as an organization.”

Williams said they made the decision after consulting with alumni, the fraternity’s national office and UA student affairs officials.

“We support an inclusive campus environment, and as an organization we chose not to participate in an activity that we knew other members of the community found offensive,” he said.

University officials did not specifically ask the fraternity to end the practice. In 2009, after the parade interrupted the 35th anniversary celebration for Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically black sorority, AKA alumnae sent a letter to UA President Robert Witt requesting that the administration end Old South celebrations.

Dean of Students Tim Hebson said UA officials are pleased KA members found a way to honor their history while also showing that they want to be cooperative and compassionate members of the UA community.

“The members of the fraternity understand that when traditions hurt others, even unintentionally, it’s time to change them,” Hebson said in a statement. “This year, they are committed to upholding the ideals of their founding fathers while demonstrating respect for everyone on campus.”

An internal memo posted on the Kappa Alpha Order’s Web site from the KA executive council to all chapters and alumni said that KA members could not wear Confederate uniforms at Old South balls or parades. The memo from Executive Director Larry Weise was dated Jan. 21.

“In today’s climate, the order can ill afford to offend our host institutions and fend off significant negative national press and remain effective at our core mission, which is to aid young men in becoming better community leaders and citizens,” Weise said in the memo.

Kappa Alpha was founded in 1865 at Washington & Lee University, formerly known as Washington College. Chapters hold Old South week celebrations to honor their founders according to information on chapter Web sites. Members dress in Confederate uniforms to honor founders who had fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

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Fraternity adjusts traditions