The UT chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity canceled its “a border to cross” event Tuesday night following a negative student response to the Facebook invitation created for it.
The event, planned by the fraternity as a part of its “Alpha Tau Omega Presents Fiestau” party, was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. For the “a border to cross” event, the fraternity planned to build an obstacle in the middle of the party to represent the border between the U.S. and Mexico, Nick Davis, petroleum engineering sophomore and co-organizer of the event’s Facebook page, said.
“Party guests would then have to cross that obstacle to get from the ‘Texas side’ of the party to the ‘Mexico side,’” he said.
Before the event was canceled, Davis said plans for the event were not finalized, but the fraternity had a good idea of how it was going to look.
“We’re going to put a river through it and have like a border crossing, you know, like you walk over the river,” he said.
Davis said the “a border to cross” event was meant to help separate the two sides of the party and give partygoers a better experience.
“I mean, we’re going to have a Mexican side and a Texas side, with Mexican-themed drinks and then Texas-themed drinks,” he said. “We’re going to have a Mexican flag hanging up and kind of have a little party on the Mexican side. Then the band will be on the Texas side, and you can choose where you want to hang out, what kind of drink you want to get. That’s really the only reason we have that side.”
The fraternity changed the name of the party to “Alpha Tau Omega Presents the Alamo” Tuesday night. The party will also feature an “Alamo hangout,” according to the Facebook event.
Bilingual education junior Luis Juarez said he cannot describe how offended he is over the “a border to cross” event.
“I’m honestly speechless right now,” he said. “It’s totally negative, because they don’t know what people go through whenever they cross the border. For them to be having an event of that manner, I don’t even know. I’m outraged.”
Davis said the party was never meant as a negative statement against any ethnicity.
“There’s really no malintent[sic] involved,” Davis said.
Ryan Miller, lead team member for the Campus Climate Response Team, an organization that investigates incidents of bias at UT, said his office has received 15 reports of racially biased theme parties at UT so far this semester.
“I think our wider mainstream culture is saturated with stereotypes and negative images of marginalized groups and communities,” Miller said.
Veronica Rivera, political communication studies sophomore, and Rocio Villalobos, program coordinator for the Multicultural Engagement Center, created a petition Tuesday morning calling for offended members of the UT community to “encourage the organizations to end the negative and hurtful portrayal of communities of color on campus.” By Tuesday night, the petition had 342 signatures, Rivera said.
Rivera said the petition’s supporters are planning on delivering it to officials on campus, including administrators in the Office of the Dean of Students.
Davis, Jeremy Cope, sophomore and event co-organizer, Nathaniel Sokolski, the fraternity’s vice president, and other members of the fraternity declined further comment.
Printed on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 as: Fraternity acts on claims of racism