Editor's Note: MuralxMaroon is a collaboration between The Maroon and Mural, a Spanish-English billingual magazine promoting the discussion of Latinx or Hispanic culture on campus and across Chicago. You can find their website here.
The Chi Upsilon chapter of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI)’s response letter to the grievances surrounding its construction-themed party on Cinco de Mayo is an apologetic attempt to address the expressed student concerns but ultimately fails to understand the true nature of the campus’s complaints. The released letter fixates on the context in which the party theme was decided upon rather than comprehending how the chapter blatantly failed to give proper attention to the expressed concerns.
On May 3, a member of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA) reached out to a FIJI member after the group became aware of the then-potential party taking place on Cinco de Mayo and its construction theme. In the message, the member of MEChA made it clear that the event could be construed as offensive as it implicitly celebrates a Mexican holiday by having patrons dress as racial stereotypes. The message also acknowledged the fraternity’s claim that the party’s theme revolved around the house’s recent renovations; however, they still asked that they consider changing the theme to something “less controversial.” In a comprehensive attempt to minimize the potential offense of the party, the MEChA member asked for an explanation of the party’s theme if the theme would not be changed—the chapter member who responded said the theme was going to be changed. Nonetheless, FIJI still held a construction-themed party on Cinco de Mayo and sought no further communication with any members of MEChA to further explain how this decision was made. MEChA had been misled to believe the theme of the party was no longer going to be construction.
Among the many mediocre components of FIJI’s letter, the most concerning is the lack of reflection from the fraternity regarding the event. While the chapter’s full response to this issue was to change the event theme, they were not committed to enforcing that change. The chapter changed the event page on Facebook, but this unfortunately “did not dissuade some brothers from wearing construction themed attire,” as stated in their letter.
The apology mostly justified the theme, not acknowledging that they had misled MEChA and trivialized expressed concerns. MEChA’s released statement after the event reads: “MEChA believes the fraternity followed through their plans of a construction-themed party to demonstrate their privilege and authority by blatantly disregarding the concerns of the marginalized groups without facing disciplinary actions.” FIJI’s response completely disregards this fact and only views their offense in terms of the party’s theme and date.
As for disciplinary action, the chapter has stated they “should address the small number of brothers who did act recklessly.” Only one brother is facing disciplinary action concerning an insensitive comment in the Facebook group prior to the event. While the comment was of true discriminatory nature and elucidates the inner workings of the frat’s accepted social culture, the comment, again, was not the true concern of the incidents related to the event and was not a concern in MEChA’s statement. FIJI’s response seems to indicate that the chapter did not take the time, once more, to understand the concerns that were expressed, even after the event took place. They seem to believe that the measures taken with the now-suspended member will absolve the entire fraternity from their offense. Nonetheless, the fraternity’s insensitivity is marked by their mass compliance to ignore and mislead, and by their refusal to communicate with students not comfortable with the event.
By blaming this on one individual, it ignores the broader issues at hand, which is the blatant disregard of sentiments and concerns of marginalized groups. More broadly, it is yet another example of the oversimplified approach to problem solving racial and cultural tensions on campus, which is in large part supported by the University’s distant relationship to Greek Life.
I have a hard time recognizing a sincere reflection from the fraternity with regard to their actions both before and after the event. FIJI cannot say they have offered a sincere apology if they have yet still failed to recognize MEChA’s true concerns. The offense being addressed by certain marginalized groups goes beyond costumes and themes. It is in the little importance that was given to a situation considered to be of high value and concern from some community members.
Demonstrating a firm commitment to diversity and inclusion can mean taking the sentiments and concerns of marginalized groups with the seriousness that they represent to those groups. But, it also can and should mean administrative accountability for the groups not upholding said University-shared values.
P.S. (With regard to the use of “Hispanic” in the FIJI letter) “Hispanic” denotes Spain or Spanish speakers. Cinco de Mayo commemorates a Mexican victory over French forces.
Jasmin Pizano is a third-year in the college majoring in romance languages and literatures and public policy studies.