(USA TODAY) The University of Texas at Austin’s Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity — commonly referred to as Fiji – attracted attention from UT students and others after hosting a “border patrol” themed party Feb. 7. Guests reportedly arrived wearing sombreros, ponchos and construction gear.
Fiji president Andrew Campbell says the party was intended to have a Western or Old West theme. He admits “there were elements and dress that were insensitive and inappropriate. We understand why people were and are offended.”
On Feb. 26, Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly ruled that no campus rules were violated at the party.
In response to a question posed via Twitter, the official UT-Austin account said:
Records released to The Associated Press in Jan. 2014 reveal that Fiji hosted a similar party where patrons wore “stereotypical Mexican clothing.” The complaint was reportedly filed with UT’s Campus Climate Response Team.
Campbell says “(his fraternity has) learned an important lesson about planning and conducting our social events and other activities as responsible members of the University and Austin communities. (They) commit to work with the office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to plan programs to educate our members and reinforce the lessons from this unfortunate incident.”
But students are condemning the fraternity’s actions and are disappointed that the school is not taking action.
“Hugely disappointed with UT’s response to the racist Fiji party earlier this month,” says sophomore Diana Padilla. “How can minorities hope to feel respected in an institution of higher learning when things like this go unpunished? Such a big let down by a school I love so much.”
“I think (the event) was racist and offensive,” says sophomore Nick Habel. “People need to be more educated and less offensive. It seems like people don’t realize these things are offensive or harmful, so they think it’s ok to have racist themed parties…I really am disappointed in the university for allowing this and not taking some kind of disciplinary action.”
“I always assume that after an event like this, especially at such a diverse university, there would be better communication about improving race relations,” says junior Nathaniel Belachew. “Events like these are affecting other people.”
A letter of concern written by Latino Community Affairs has over 400 signatures of support. The letter read, in part, that the university must “encourage these organizations to end the negative and hurtful portrayal of communities of color on (UT’s) campus.” (USA TODAY)