Recently, University of Kansas sophomore Katherine Lauer re-tweeted a political tweet posted by a conservative political pundit. The response to the retweet was being placed on probation from the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. The sorority claims the tweet and other conservative social media posts by Lauer displayed “unbecoming values.”
At issue is a social media post shared by Lauer from conservative pundit Candace Owens, who is African American, that claimed: “Black Lives Matter is an organization of white men, using the faces of dead Black people to raise millions of dollars toward electing White Democrats into positions of power.”
“It is the most flagrantly racist organization in America,” Owens added.
Lauer also included the caption from Owens above the original post which reads, “Billions raised and not a single dollar given to Black schools, Black scholarships, Black neighborhoods or Black initiatives. Not a single office location or a company organization chart to speak of.”
A review of other social media posts by Lauer focused on pro-life stances and comments made by former Vice President Joe Biden in which he incorrectly claimed that 200 million people died from the coronavirus pandemic, among other topics.
According to documents provided to Fox News by sophomore Katherine Lauer, she was sanctioned by her sorority for “argumentative communication (verbal or otherwise) with members as a result of your social media posts that disregards different opinions.”
Watch the Fox News interview here:
As part of the terms of her probation outlined in a letter on Monday, October 19, Lauer was asked to take a “social media posting holiday” for a week to do a “personal reflection and cleanse” and to watch a video selected by the sorority’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. She was also instructed to have an “open dialogue” with Kappa Alpha Theta chief operating officer Allie Dew to get a “broader education of America today.”
Lauer was further told to monitor her individual social media posts between Oct. 19 and 26 to “assess their alignment with the Kappa Alpha Theta online social media contract” and to ask herself before posting if what she puts online would help or hurt her “personal brand,” Kappa Alpha Theta or women of another race.
Finally, she was told to focus on “positive, collegial conversations” when approached by other sorority members about her posts.
The University of Kansas and the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment.
Lauer told Fox News that she believes she’s been unfairly targeted by other members of her sorority. She shared a series of text messages in members accused her posts of being “hurtful” and told her that as a white woman it was “not her place to state who is racist and who is not,” referring to President Trump.
She also shared an email exchange from the sorority notifying Lauer of her placement on discretionary probation. When Lauer asked what she did wrong, she received a reply stating the decision is “not claiming you have broken a bylaw or rule, but that you have had conduct unbecoming of a member of Theta as the values you have been making public through social media and text communications went against Theta’s values and disrespected women of our chapter.”
“I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and thank me. I’ve really made a lot of friends because of it,” Lauer said Wednesday.
Lauer and her sister, Grace Lauer, said they both retweeted the Owens post in an effort to encourage people to reconsider their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Owens’ post questions where the money being raised for the social justice movement is being spent.
“We want to show we do support people – all people. I think that’s what we were trying to do, and it was kind of misinterpreted,” Grace Lauer said.
“My post itself, I don’t feel is racist. I was calling on the Black Lives Matter movement, trying to add some clarity to the situation and trying to shine some light on that,” Katherine Lauer said.
Katherine Lauer said there’s nothing in the Kappa Alpha Theta bylaws that prohibits her from retweeting a political commentary. Lauer also said one sorority sister complained to her that the tweet was offensive to her.
“I wanted to challenge people to look into the organizations they support and look into why they support them and what they actually stand for,” Katherine Lauer said.
A statement from Betsy Corridan, Kappa Alpha Theta’s CEO, said members will be held accountable for statements that are found to be offensive to others.
Grace Redding, a KU student who founded the nonprofit Strip Your Letters, said she believes the Thetas have the right to punish members who they feel cast a negative light on the sorority. Strip Your Letters, according to Redding, encourages the Panhellenic community to be more inclusive and to subscribe to progressive causes.
“(The Owens tweet) is a position that comes from a lack of education,” Redding said. “For us to say (Black Lives Matter) is the racist movement and they’re the ones who are being harmed is a little misinformed.”
Katherine Lauer said she hopes to be welcomed back into the sorority and that her quest for free speech isn’t misconstrued.
A spokesperson for the University of Kansas said sororities act as private entities entrusted to discipline their members.
Lauer told FOX News that she attempted to appeal the probation in a meeting with the sorority’s advisory board on Oct. 18 but that the members would not overturn the decision. In a recording of the Oct. 18 meeting shared with FOX News, Lauer was questioned about the Owens post.
“My reasoning for this post was to shed a little bit of light on the transparency of the organization,” Lauer said in the meeting. “Because I’ve been reading a lot of stories about people who teach in Black communities, who live in Black communities, and they are very outraged that the Black Lives Matter money isn’t going to those communities and all their funds are being controlled by Act Blue and it’s really hard to track where those funds are going.”
She added that while she supports the idea behind Black Lives Matter, she doesn’t agree with where the funds raised by the organization are going.
Members of the committee also pressed her to admit she benefitted from white privilege and informed her of anonymous forms filled out by other members who described in-person conversations they had with Lauer which made the committee feel “alarmed.”
When asked if other sorority members had faced similar consequences for their political views, Lauer said that she has no knowledge of any other member who faced similar repercussions despite “aggressive” posts she claims others have made against President Trump and his policies.
“At this point, you know I still don’t know exactly what I’ve done and to me, I feel like they’re really trying to suppress me and silence me,” Lauer said. “I’ve had actually a lot of Thetas reach out to me and thank me for my post and say that they really appreciated my bravery because a lot of the conservative friends that I have do not feel comfortable speaking their opinion. It’s almost like, you know, where it’s just the environment that everyone feels suppressed.”
Lauer was set to be “reevaluated” during a meeting on Oct. 26.
“If at this meeting it is determined that you have successfully met all terms of probation and the advisory board feels that you are ready to become a member or new member in good standing, this extended discretionary probation status will be lifted,” the letter adds.
In addition to conservative friends within her chapter, an online petition has also called on the national Theta sorority to, well, focus on personal reflection and cleanse.
Lauer, thank the heavens, is completely unbowed, standing her ground and raising her voice all the more. After being challenged and doing even more thorough research, the poised former Miss Kansas contestant is more resolute than ever in her beliefs and her right to air them.
“The conservative women in the chapter deserve someone to stand up for them and speak for them. I want them to also feel comfortable posting. I hope my talking about it encourages others to post as well and speak up for their views.”
Lauer has thus become a heroine for free expression, and not just for conservatives.
–Amy Buster | Metro Voice News