UMMC and Mississippi Blood Services respond to Derby Days investigation

Posted on Apr 20 2016 - 7:01am by Lyndy Berryhill

Derby Days beneficiaries are speaking out after a Title IX investigation began looking into sexually-charged comments made at Sigma Chi’s annual philanthropy event.

Ruth Cummins, assistant director of media relations at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, released a statement Tuesday which said the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital administration will make a decision regarding any potential action after additional information on this issue becomes available.

“Reports of the events that took place Friday night are concerning to us and we do not condone such behavior,” Cummins said in the statement. “We feel it is best for the University to complete its investigation before determining what steps we may take in the future.”

Merle Eldridge, manager of communications and public relations at Mississippi Blood Services, also released a statement  regarding the Derby Days incident that said the only part of Derby Days they participate in is the blood drive.

The basis of the blood drive is a competition between sororities to donate. The more sorority members donate blood and recruite others to donate in their sorority’s name, the more points that sorority earns toward winning the week’s Derby Days competition.

“As the sole provider of blood products to Blair E. Batson, we rely on volunteer blood donors to make sure the product is there when they need it,” Eldridge said in the statement.

The Ole Miss chapter of Sigma Chi raised $25,000 for Blair E. Batson Children’s hospital and 1,000 units of blood for Mississippi Blood Services last week during Derby Days.

In the past, donations have gone toward a fund that supports the hospital’s areas of greatest need. These donations are some of the most important gifts the hospital receives, Cummins said in the statement.

UM student and Derby Days participant Abby Bruce wrote a Facebook post concerning several comments Sigma Chi members made at the dance competition Friday that has been shared nearly 1,300 times, and caught attention of national media outlets.

The event caused a social media backlash against the comments, but other students believe the incident represents the mindset of a few members and not the fraternity as a whole.

Ashley Johnston, a nursing student, wrote an opposing post which said, although she did not condone what was said over the microphone or sexual harassment of any kind, the incident overshadows the philanthropic effort that is put into organizing an annual charity event that raises thousands of dollars and donates pints of blood for the common good.

“I can’t sit around as others demean all of this hard work,” Johnston said in her post. “This event is a good thing.”

Johnston said, as a sorority member and a former patient of Blair E. Batson Hospital, she will continue to support the event.

Other students feel the incident not only overshadows the charitable efforts, but the social media backlash fails to address a larger problem on college campuses.

Rachel Wilson, an accountancy major,  said she hates that the incident is being viewed as only one fraternity’s problem.

“I feel that if the focus is only placed on Sigma Chi and not on the cultural issue as a whole, that other groups of men on this campus will not realize that they, too, are part of the problem,” Wilson said.