Fraternity at University of Chicago involved in racist, homophobic prank
BY MARY MITCHELL firstname.lastname@example.org June 12, 2013 6:30PM
Iran Becton, a mail carrier whose route is on the University of Chicago campus, recently delivered 79 packages to 5625 S. University, a Phi Delta Theta fraternity house. The 79 packages were to be delivered to "Reggin Toggaf". Spelled backwards they reveal a racist and gay slur. Becton, who is black believes the post office should track down the culprits and hold them accountable. | Michael R. Schmidt~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2013 7:10PM
U.S. Postal carrier Iran Becton doesn’t take kindly to being the butt of a frat joke.
He’s insulted that members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity at the University of Chicago were involved in a racist prank that had him needlessly dragging postal supply boxes up to doors of their frat house at 56th and University.
“About a week after Memorial Day, I had an order to bring 79 of the boxes. I came to the address and explained to the frat member that I would have a lot more supplies. I went back to the truck for the boxes about six or seven times,” Becton said.
“After the last trip, one of the frat guys came out and said it was a practical joke. Another guy said that I should read the name backwards and I’ll get the joke.”
The items — all 79 of them — were addressed to “Reggin Toggaf.” Written backward, the first name is a racial slur. The last name is a slur for gay men.
“I was humiliated,” said Becton, an African American.
I was unable to reach any of the members of the Phi Delta Theta-Illinois Beta fraternity, whose address is listed on the university’s website, but no phone number.
But Mack Julion, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 11, said he paid a visit to the frat house last Saturday and spoke with the group’s former president.
“Their contention was it was a practical joke, but we don’t think it was funny, the letter carrier doesn’t think it was funny, and it doesn’t reflect well on the university,” Julion told me.
Julion said the fraternity told him the “joke” was being played on them and was not meant to offend Becton.
“But if it was a practical joke from one frat to another and not to the letter carrier, it is still not funny. Is this the way you tease each other?” Julion said he asked. “Is this standard protocol in terms of practical jokes? Is this the way they go back and forth, because it is not acceptable.”
The postal supply boxes were shipped from Victory Packaging, a shipping company in Aurora. The representative that handles the U.S. Postal Service account was appalled when I told him about the bogus shipment.
“We are going to take this real seriously,” he said, promising to investigate and get back to me.
Even though the joke involved the abuse and possibly the destruction of postal property (the priority mail boxes are intended for use by customers patronizing the postal service), Becton said so far his complaints about the incident fell on deaf ears with respect to punishing the people who were behind the prank.
“Someone had to send an email to order those boxes, and the postal inspector should go after the person who ordered all this stuff. This is ridiculous that all you can tell me is that you are sorry it happened,” Becton said.
The incident is being investigated, according to Julie Kenney, a spokesman for the Chicago Division Postal Inspection Services.
“The Postal Inspection Service wants to insure the carrier feels safe delivering the mail,” Kenney said, pointing out that Becton wasn’t the “intended target” of the packages.
“[Postal inspectors] interviewed the deputy chief of police at the University of Chicago and they also met with the vice president of the fraternity,” she said.
Meanwhile, the fraternity’s mail delivery has been put on hold until the fraternity sends a written apology to the letter carrier.
“I gave him my card and told him he may put something in writing,” Julion said. “I told him I would talk to the letter carrier and see how he feels. That was on Saturday and I haven’t heard back.”
Becton is not in the mood to let the guilty go unpunished.
“These are U.S. Postal inspectors. You can’t tell me they can’t do anything,” he told me.
“The postal inspector is sworn to protect us.”
Besides being a dumb, racist and homophobic prank, the stunt was juvenile and beneath the intellect of students attending such a prestigious university.
In 2009, seniors at a Christian Community School in North Eaton, Ohio, had thousands of U.S. Postal Service priority mailers sent to the school as a senior prank.
The Chronicle-Telegram reported that the mailers included a warning that the package is the property of the U.S. Postal Service, and that “misuse may be a violation of federal law.”
The seniors weren’t punished, but the boxes were picked up and returned for reuse.
“What I resent about this is that these frat guys are being treated like they are kids,” Becton said.
Obviously, they are.