Texas Fiji’s “border patrol” theme party held on Feb. 7 did not violate any University rules and will not result in any penalty for the fraternity, according to Soncia Reagins-Lilly, senior associate vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.
Though the party was intended to have a “Western” theme, according to Fiji President Andrew Campbell, several party attendees said the party theme was communicated as “border patrol.” Many attendees wore sombreros, ponchos and construction hats with names such as “Jefe” and “Pablo Sanchez” written on them.
Reagins-Lilly said the fraternity did not violate any rules, primarily because the party was held off campus, but she said the Dean of Students office is working with the fraternity to increase its cultural sensitivity.
“Civility, diversity and citizenship are integrated into the fabric of the University of Texas at Austin,” Reagins-Lilly said. “‘There is ongoing work integrated in everything we do.”
Over 20 complaints were sent to the Campus Climate Response Team following the party, and a report released to the Associated Press found that the Team received one complaint about a similar party Fiji hosted in January 2014.
“While the behavior doesn’t mirror UT core values, it’s within students’ right to freedom of speech at private off campus event,” the University tweeted from the official UT-Austin Twitter account.
Reagins-Lilly said February’s party is just one example of cultural insensitivity on and around campus, and she said the Office of the Dean of Students is using the event to promote better cultural practices at UT.
“It’s not limited to any particular community,” Reagins-Lilly said. “These are opportunities to talk about and learn from.”
Rocio Villalobos, a program director at the Multicultural Engagement Center on campus, said the events at Fiji are part of a larger problem of poor communication about issues of race.
“To the members of Phi Gamma Delta and their guests, having a ‘border patrol’ themed party and dressing up in construction gear was nothing to think twice about,” Villalobos said at a protest at Fiji’s fraternity house Feb. 12. “We are not a joke. Our lives are not a joke.”
Amber Magee, public health junior and director of Student Government’s Underrepresented Students Agency, said at the protest that action needed to be taken.
“This is just one drop in a bucket that’s been going on way too long,” Magee said. “This has to stop now. We can’t just expect for investigations for things to go through the normal channels. We have to take action as a student body.”