This blog on Texas education contains posts on accountability, testing, K-12 education, postsecondary educational attainment, dropouts, bilingual education, immigration, school finance, environmental issues, Ethnic Studies at state and national levels. It also represents my digital footprint, of life and career, as a community-engaged scholar in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin.
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”
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
“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
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],”
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
“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.”