A Columbia University administrator denounced a campus sorority for racial insensitivity over its Olympics-themed costume party in which students dressed up like citizens of different countries–such as Ireland, France and Mexico.
The administrator, Dean of Students Terry Martinez, said campus resources would be made available to provide counseling to anyone who was offended by Kappa Alpha Theta’s party.
“I am incredibly saddened and disappointed to learn of students in our community participating in costume caricatures of several different nationalities,” said Martinez in a statement. “It is our utmost responsibility to ensure that your living and learning environment is free from any act or behavior that degrades individuals or groups, including racially or culturally- based insensitivity. As such, the bias-related response team, which is comprised of members across Student Affairs including the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Fraternity and Sorority Life, are currently reaching out to potentially impacted communities to offer support and follow-up.”
The party was an equal-opportunity offender: Participants were allowed to dress up however they wanted. Some girls donned skimpy French maid outfits to represent France; others selected Japanese schoolgirl attire to represent Japan, according to The College Fix. Picture of the party on social media show that the Netherlands, Jamaica and Mexico were represented as well.
The Mexican-themed partygoers wore sombreros and mustaches, and seem to have garnered the most hate. The Columbia Chicano Caucus, a group for Latino students, accused Theta of stigmatizing Mexico and promoting systemic oppression.
“While we understand that the actions taken by these members may not have intended to be harmful, they were in fact offensive,” said the Chicano Caucus in a statement. “Stereotypes are used to oppress marginalized communities… While we cannot speak for every Mexican, Mexican-American, or Chicana, we feel that any form of cultural appropriation is humiliating and perpetuates that group’s oppression in the United States by reinforcing a general culture of disrespect… Tangible solutions need to be reached so that this does not happen again.”
Ironically, the Chicano Caucus may have also perpetrated oppression against itself by similarly mocking traditional Mexican garb. The club participated in a Valentine’s Day party where they provided cutouts of Mexican characters and allowed students to pose inside them. The pictures are available on Facebook.
Bwog, a campus blog, took note of the hypocrisy.
“While the actions aren’t equivalent and the group has the right to do whatever it wants with its culture, we can’t help but think that Chicano Caucus may have been perpetuating ‘the stereotype of the sombrero-wearing Mexican-American migrant worker’ with this one,” wrote the editors of Bwog.
The Chicano Caucus did apologize for offending anyone, while noting that the representation of Mexican culture was intended to be positive.
The Daily Caller asked Martinez whether she wished to condemn the Latino student group for racial insensitivity as well. She did not respond to a request for comment.