Disgusting and offensive. In Spanish, we might call these students "mal educados." In English, we might call them racist bigots.
The Office of the Dean of Students opened an investigation Monday into a party hosted by the Texas Fiji fraternity Saturday night that guests said was “border patrol” theme.
Many party attendees wore ponchos, sombreros and construction gear. Other guests wore army camouflage outfits, construction hard hats with the names “Jefe” and “Pablo Sanchez” written on them, reflective vests and work gloves.
Marilyn Russell, director of sorority and fraternity life in the Office of the Dean of Students, said the administration was aware of the insensitive party theme but did not provide a timeline for the investigation.
“We’re working with the leadership of the organization as we speak and have prioritized that today,” Russell said. “We’re moving quickly to gather information and assess the situation … It’s of utmost importance.”
The organization brings fraternity and sorority leaders together several times per year to discuss cultural sensitivity as it relates to themed parties, according to Russell.
“It’s not as though this is the first time we’ve had these conversations — our organization is well aware [of this issue],” Russell said.
Fiji fraternity president Andrew Campbell said the party was a “Western-themed party which focuses on the traditional old west,” although several attendees said the party’s theme was communicated as “border patrol.”
News of the party prompted a wide range of reactions on social media.
“It’s fun playing dress up when you don’t have to deal with the real issues that come from being Mexican in America,” Mayté Salazar, a UT alumna, wrote on Facebook.
Journalism senior Rebecca Salazar expressed a similar sentiment on Twitter.
“No respect, no common sense, no growth,” she said.
One widely-circulated Internet post was a flyer titled “Fiji Pledge Rules — Confidential,” which listed rules including “no interracial dating” and “no Mexicans.” Though the viral image sparked outrage, its source was actually a 2007 post on Flickr, a photo sharing website. No Fiji member ever confirmed the authenticity of the eight-year-old image.
The party’s theme undermined the goals and purpose of the University, according to Angela Valenzuela, a professor in the Center for Mexican American Studies.
Valenzuela said she hopes the controversy generated by the party will help bring attention to current issues at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I think an appropriate University response, in my humble opinion, would be to use this opportunity to pay serious attention to the crisis at our border,” Valenzuela said.
The Longhorn League of United Latin American Citizens and Latino Community Affairs also co-signed and launched a letter of concern to the University community on Monday that urged administrators to implement “proper repercussions” for groups that “promote the ridicule of different cultures.”
“We have created this petition in order to express our concern at the reoccurrence of these themed parties and to ask for your support in denouncing these parties,” the letter stated. “There has to be an end to these parties.”