During Texas Fiji’s “Marshalls” party Feb. 7, some attendees wore stereotypical Latino garb. As a result, the party has been the subject of much controversy this past week, including a protest on Friday. Many students on campus claimed that the costumes worn at the party, and certain aspects of the decoration at the event, were offensive to the Latino community. Some students demanded that parties with themes that potentially offend groups of people be barred permanently.
I, as a member of Texas SigEp, have had a hard realization stemming from the reaction of those who were offended. I realize that there is a fundamental misunderstanding between the predominantly white Greek community and the minority groups on campus. Texas Fiji, and other fraternities that have similar themed parties, dress as they do for fun and with no intent of offending anyone. I know that because I have done so myself.
We don’t mean to offend anyone. But, as I have learned this week, the truth is, we do. Many people who defend Fiji make claims like one commenter’s in a previous Daily Texan article on this situation: “How in the world is a tequila bar offensive?” This type of argument misses an important issue though — what should or should not be offensive does not matter; what matters is what is offensive. The reality is that most members of the fraternities and sororities who throw these types of parties have never had to deal with the issues such parties lampoon. Thus, they have no right to say what should or should not be offensive to people who have.
The good news is this problem can be solved through open discussion. The conversation of what is and is not offensive needs to be had. The issue, as I see it, boils down to a misunderstanding — a misunderstanding that is widening the divide between the fraternities and sororities on campus and the rest of the campus community. That is why the Interfraternity Council leadership has reached out to the leadership team at the Multicultural Engagement Center in hopes that we can work together to make guidelines on party themes for our member fraternities. We, as the leadership team of the IFC, see this as the best way to initiate the dialogue, end this problem and ultimately lead to a more unified campus community.
Lueder is a Plan II, business honors, finance and philosophy junior from Dallas. He is the president of the Interfraternity Council.