At the University of California, Irvine, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity stands accused of anti-Pacific Islander racism because it recently hosted a charity fundraiser called the FIJI Islander party which featured students who dressed in coconut bras and grass skirts.
The Phi Gamma Delta fraternity has been commonly known by the moniker FIJI since 1894. It boasts over 120 active chapters.
As a result of the event, reports Campus Reform, administrators at UCI have compelled the fraternity and other Greek organizations into “ongoing discussions” about “offending others.”
“The administration and student affairs is using it as an opportunity to show to fraternities what cultural appropriation is and how they might be more sensitive, to be able to have their week of philanthropy that ends in a social event without,” UCI spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon told Campus Reform.
Students who were offended by coconut bras and grass skirts are also taking part in the discussions.
The kerfuffle began on May 20 when Save Gasaiwai, a UCI student of Fijian descent, complained in a statement that the charity fundraiser caused pain to “marginalized” people and reinforced “white male hegemonic structures.”
The statement endorsed by the school’s Asian Pacific Student Association accused the FIJI fraternity of “tacitly committing an act of cultural appropriation and publicly projecting their ethnographic ignorance.”
The statement also included a list of demands. This run-on sentence for example: “Tell members of your organization to stop wearing our traditional/cultural attires, they don’t know jack shit about its cultural significance.”
It’s not clear if Gasaiwai believes that anyone in the Republic of Fiji who is not in the tourist industry wears coconut bras or grass skirts.
Another demand in the statement is that the FIJI frat must stop using the word FIJI because using the word Fiji is racist.
Lawhon, the taxpayer-funded UCI spokeswoman, seemed inclined to agree to some extent.
“Just because it has been around for decades doesn’t mean you expand it into a culturally inappropriate party theme,” she told Campus Reform.
Lawhon did note that the school could not punish the fraternity members because wearing coconut bras and grass skirts violates no policy at UCI.
Despite the school’s inability to mete out punishment, the UCI student government passed a resolution calling on school officials to penalize the Greek organization.
“Maybe we can’t change their name, but we can create enough public pressure to make them follow current policies,” UCI student council representative Patrick Chen told the Daily Pilot, an Orange County newspaper.
Students who support the beleaguered fraternity have noted that wearing clothes and having fundraising parties are constitutionally protected rights.
Lauren Hineman, another UCI student council representative, disagreed.
“I support free speech, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of other students on campus,” she told the Daily Pilot.