SAE Kappa Karaoke dance appears to mimic sexual assault, prompts apology
Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s performance at Kappa Kappa Gamma’s philanthropy week-ending Kappa Karaoke—an annual event in which Greek organizations perform choreographed dances before a panel of judges—appeared to mimic sexual assault to some audience members, prompting swift apologies from both SAE and KKG.
The March 25 performance, which included a feigned slap across the face during a sexually charged sequence and a member pushing another to the ground and rolling over him, was choreographed by several senior members in SAE and KKG coaches assigned to the fraternity as part of their philanthropy week.
The performance made some members of the audience uncomfortable, with several attendees reporting feeling triggered by what they saw as simulations of sexual assault.
In response to complaints about the event, SAE president and junior Yano Windmiller sent an email offering an apology to sorority chapter heads Monday, March 26.
“I am writing to address our performance at Kappa Karaoke yesterday. I would like to extend my most sincere and unqualified apology. We fully understand the gravity of sexual assault and in no way were we intending to make references to assault,” the email read. “That being said, it is extremely clear to me and to my entire chapter how our performance could have been interpreted in this way.”
In addition to Windmiller’s email, sorority heads received another email the same day from sophomore Ashlyn Elftmann, KKG’s philanthropy chair.
“We know there was at least one organization whose dance triggered some individuals, especially surrounding the topic of sexual assault,” the email read. “I would like to extend my personal apology.”
While both representatives detailed actions being taken to address the performance, Windmiller specified that SAE will take disciplinary measures.
“We’d like to make it clear that we will be dealing with the issue internally and externally,” Windmiller’s email read. “Our Bystander Intervention Chair will be working with the campus Title IX office and with members of the chapter. In addition, with the support of my chapter, which views these actions as inappropriate, I will be advocating to send the SAE choreographers to our Standards Board.”
In addition to the actions being taken by the individual chapters, Women’s Panhellenic Association will review the incident.
“The Women’s Panhellenic Association will be working with all sorority chapters to evaluate the culture of philanthropy events,” Women’s Panhellenic Association president and junior Arielle Hamburg wrote in a statement to Student Life.
Kappa Karaoke raises money for its causes both by selling tickets to the event and by charging organizations a participation fee.
This year, the cause of the event was to support Reading Is Fundamental, which aims to eliminate illiteracy, and Project Backpack St. Louis, which distributes backpacks to children in the St. Louis area who have been removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect.
According to Alpha Omicron Pi president Elaine Cole, a junior, Greek events should be about the philathrophy.
“I think honestly, and not just with Kappa Kappa Gamma but with every Greek organization, we want to engage people, but we also really want to focus on our philanthropy,” she said. “I think Campus Life is working hard on doing that not just recruitment wise…but also just generally trying to bring it back to values based stuff that we’re doing.”
While acknowledging the difficulty in maintaining student interest and highlighting philanthropic efforts, a member of Pi Beta Phi believes that the event has been hypersexualized and much of the responsibility lies with KKG.
“[SAE] was the first dance to go, and for that reason they are being accused of foul play, but many other dances (performed by sororities and fraternities) were much more sexual and even violent than theirs. [KKG] has set a precedent in the last [few] years that Kappa Karaoke is an overtly sexual event. It’s about raunchy dancing. The fact that people were offended and bothered, is very unfortunate, and that isn’t OK. I think, however, that the responsibility for the offensiveness lays on the shoulders of [KKG] for advertising their event as sexual and for allowing their coaches to choreograph in that way,” she said.
For many in Greek life, the incident was particularly problematic because it dealt with sexual assault, a problem that has plagued the community.
“It’s definitely an issue, and statistically, the chances of someone being sexually assaulted during college goes up if they are a member of a Greek organization,” Cole said. “That’s terrifying personally. And it’s sad, and it’s something we need to fix.”
Assistant Director of Leadership & Fraternity/Sorority Life David Stetter could not be reached for comment.
Editor’s Note: Editor-in-Chief Ella Chochrek is a member of Alpha Omicron Pi and was not involved in the writing or reporting of this story.