Andrew Campbell

Maria Villalpando speaks at a panel held by the Department of Mexican American and Latino Studies on Monday. The panel focused on the party guest said was “Border Patrol” themed that Texas Fiji held Feb. 7.
Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

On Monday, a panel of UT faculty and students discussed the University’s decision not to take punitive action against Texas Fiji after its Feb. 7 party guests said was “border patrol” themed.

“I’m not satisfied,” Domino Perez, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies, said. “I want more to be done. I want more to be done so everyone on campus can feel safe, and students don’t have to be the subject of hurtful displays.”

The Department of Mexican American and Latino Studies held a forum to discuss the University’s decision to not punish the fraternity. 

The fraternity’s party was intended to have a “Western” theme, according to Fiji president Andrew Campbell. Many attendees wore sombreros, ponchos and construction hats with names such as “Jefe” and “Pablo Sanchez” written on them. 

Days after the party, the Office of the Dean of Students opened a formal investigation into the party but decided not to take action. Soncia Reagins-Lilly, senior associate vice president for the Dean of Students, said last week in an interview with the Texan that the fraternity did not violate any University rules.

“While we are limited to specific jurisdiction for off-campus private parties, we are not limited to growth and learning taking place,” Reagins-Lilly said. “We are proud of our students for holding each other accountable and continuing to conduct dialogue.”

Panelists at the forum were all members of the UT Latino community. Approximately 19 percent of students enrolled to the University in 2013 were Hispanic, according to the University’s Institutional Reporting, Research and Information Systems. 

“How could you behave this way with such a large Latino population?” Perez said. “Asking if the costume or the behavior is racist isn’t the question. … We need to be asking why that behavior is permissible.” 

The fraternity has reached out to members of Latino Community Affairs in order to understand what it can do to make the situation better, according to Maria Villalpando, a member of the organization. Campbell did not respond to multiple requests for a comment. 

The University’s response to Fiji’s party was inadequate compared to the recent action taken by the University of Oklahoma against its Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter, according to Yolanda Munoz, an applied learning and development junior. OU severed ties with SAE after a video surfaced Sunday showing members of the fraternity chanting anti-black racial slurs. 

“UT is being bashed all over because UT administration didn’t respond quickly enough and didn’t really do anything,” Munoz said. “But it’s a tricky question since [the fraternity] is off campus. … At what point does the administration draw the line?”

Educating fraternity members about the effect of mocking minority cultures is the most effective way to prevent offensive theme parties, according to Perez. 

“I don’t need you to be sensitive. I need you to not be racist,” Perez said. “The way to not be racist is to educate yourself and not be ignorant. This is a community where students should feel safe.”

Photo Credit: Julia Brouillette | Daily Texan Staff

Update: The Office of the Dean of Students has launched a formal investigation into Texas Fiji's Feb. 7 party. To learn more about the investigation, click here.

Texas Fiji hosted a party guests said had a “border patrol” theme Saturday night, where attendees wore construction gear, ponchos and sombreros.

Other guests wore army camouflage outfits.

According to Fiji fraternity president Andrew Campbell, the party was this year’s annual Fiji Marshals event, a “western-themed party which focuses on the traditional old west.” Multiple attendees said the party’s theme was communicated as “border patrol.” Among the several hundred attendees, many wore construction hard hats with the names “Jefe” and “Pablo Sanchez” written on them, as well as reflective vests and work gloves. 

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Decorations included painted photo cutout boards of people dressed in traditional Mexican attire. The bar was painted to resemble a Mexican flag, with the shape of Texas in the middle.

Campbell said fraternity members intended to make sure the party theme was not offensive. 

“We notified our chapter prior to the party via email that the theme was Western — not south of the border or anything Mexican related,” Campbell said in an emailed statement. “It was our intention to monitor and enforce this policy to the best of our ability.”

Campbell said the chapter did not endorse insensitivity.

“If any individual or cultural groups were offended, Texas Fiji apologizes for any insensitivity that our guests or members may have portrayed,” Campbell said. “It is never Texas Fiji’s intent to alienate or demean any ethnic group.”

In fall 2012, the UT chapter of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity canceled its “a border to cross” event following online negative responses from students. In the 2013-2014 school year, the Campus Climate Response Team received four reports of race or ethnicity-themed parties, according to the CCRT report released Monday.

 

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