A sorority at Dartmouth College has canceled an annual Kentucky Derby-themed party in response to protesters who complained that basing a party on the popular horse race was racist.
Every year, Kappa Delta Epsilon (KDE) holds an invite-only party in the spring. Until last year, the party was held the same weekend as the Kentucky Derby, which was used as the party’s theme.
In 2015, several Dartmouth students protested outside the party as part of a larger protest march, saying the exclusive party was racist and economically elitist. After Dartmouth’s student assembly president (who was attending the party) engaged in a shouting match with a protester, activists launched a petition drive calling for him to resign.
Now, according to The Dartmouth, the protesters have apparently achieved their goal, as KDE’s members have voted to rebrand the party to avoid offending people. Henceforth, instead of having a Derby theme, it will have a Woodstock theme.
“We realized that if anyone on campus felt uncomfortable or upset with the theme, then we obviously shouldn’t have it,” said KDE social chair Jehanna Axelrod.
KDE vice president Nikol Oydanich said house members were convinced by critics that the party was racially offensive because it evoked the aesthetics of the plantation-era South.
“[It is] related to pre-war Southern culture,” she said. “Derby was a party that had the power to upset a lot of our classmates.”
Despite Oydanich’s claim that the Derby party related to the antebellum South, the first Kentucky Derby was actually held in 1875, ten years after the Civil War ended.
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