(Photo: BroBible.com/Detroit Free Press)
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (USA TODAY) -- Images of the stars and stripes strategically draped over the bodies of some University of Michigan fraternity members who otherwise appear to be nude have generated controversy -- and gotten a chapter of the fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, in hot water.
On Tuesday, the headquarters of Pi Kappa Alpha announced it had placed the university's Beta Tau chapter on interim suspension. The university's Office of Greek Life, as well as the Interfraternity Council, are investigating, UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.
The picture and an accompanying e-mail message about an upcoming party were reportedly intended for members of a sorority. But various websites, including BroBible.com and BuzzFeed.com, have picked up the story and published the image showing men lined up behind a folded American flag held at their waists. There are also pictures online of individual men wrapped in smaller flags.
Ryan Lee, 19, president of the Beta Tau chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, said the image and e-mail were supposed to be satirical. He said the fraternity meant no disrespect and apologizes if anyone took offense.
"The photo and e-mail are satirical in nature, and Pi Kappa Alpha did not plan for the e-mail to be sent outside of the intended sorority," Lee said Monday.
"Additionally, we mentioned in the e-mail we wished to keep the message and its contents private. We did not mean to disrespect the sorority, veterans, America or the flag at all in the picture, and we apologize if anyone was offended.
Justin A. Buck, executive vice president of Pi Kappa Alpha, said in a statement posted on the fraternity's website that the chapter was immediately being placed on interim suspension, "due to members displaying inappropriate and offensive photos as well as making claims which are in violation of Fraternity Standards."
Fitzgerald said the Office of Greek Life and the Interfraternity Council, a self-governing body made up of fraternity members, launched inquiries and will determine, separately or jointly, whether discipline is appropriate. They have not yet reached any conclusions, he said.
It was not immediately clear when the image was first made public. Fitzgerald said university officials learned of the matter Monday.
"Most of the discipline with fraternities and sororities comes with Interfraternity Council or the national organization itself," Fitzgerald said. "Every situation is different."
Lee told the Free Press Monday night the fraternity did not plan for the picture to be widely circulated.
"...We are currently doing everything we can to resolve the issue internally and repair the damage that has been done to various groups within our community."
Lee declined to make further statements Tuesday, referring questions to Justin True, director of communications and marketing for Pi Kappa Alpha. True did not immediately respond to an e-mail inquiry.
In his statement, Buck said he was disappointed by the decisions of the chapter's members.
"Countless undergraduate and alumni members throughout our organization have contacted the office voicing their displeasure and the Fraternity is taking this situation very seriously. Pi Kappa Alpha does not condone this behavior, the image it portrays, or the claims which have been made by the Chapter.
"Clearly, these actions are neither in line with Pi Kappa Alpha's values nor those of the University of Michigan. The Fraternity's staff is committed to working with the university and the Interfraternity Council to implement appropriate punitive and educational conditions for the chapter. Failure to comply with this indefinite suspension or the subsequent conditions may result in additional action, including charter suspension."