UT-Austin Fraternity Keeps The Hateful Party Train Rolling

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Last weekend, the Texas Fiji (Phi Gamma Delta) fraternity hosted a border patrol-themed party. It’s not hard to guess what kinds of garb the guests chose — and you don’t have to, as there are pictures. “The University takes those incidents very seriously,” Erica Saenz, associate vice president of the University of Texas Division of Diversity & Community Engagement, told KVUE. “It’s unfortunate because we are trying to promote a campus climate that is welcoming and inclusive for all and when these incidents happen they just kind of set us back a little bit.”

Shouldn’t a university taking this “very seriously” administer serious punishment? A theme like this counters value-centric efforts to foster an inclusive campus. Especially at a Texas university, jokey degradation of Mexican and Mexican-American culture should be treated appropriately, not simply spoken to sternly. In 2012, this blog broke news of a racially questionable sorority “fiesta” party, in which patrons mocked Mexicans and wore “ILLEGAL” and “BORDER PATROL” shirts. In 2013, the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity decked its fences in sexually degrading phrases next to drawings of female subjects and the university refrained from punishment.

Texas Fiji, hosted in a 113-year-old colonial revival house, was only hosting “western-themed party which focuses on the traditional old west,” according to the chapter president Andrew Campbell. It’s not hard to guess what that really means the theme was; guests say it was specifically “border patrol”.

UT social justice group Society for Unity has identified various breadloaves leading up to this shameful moment for the fraternity. In 1989, 5 Fijis attacked a Latino family sitting in a van because the students thought they were homeless, and thus deserving of assault.  In 1990, Texas Fiji’s lawn supported a “No Blacks Allowed” sign during a parade in which fraternity brothers handed out “Sambo” t-shirts. A thousand from the university community protested against Fiji in response. In 2007, an alleged Fiji pledge guide surfaced that specified “no fagetry,” “no interracial dating” and “no Mexicans”. This year, in addition to this offense, it appears a Fiji party served as the site of a girl getting punched and sent to the hospital.

What actions do you think the UT administration should take against Fiji? Tell us in the comments.

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About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

13 Comments

  1. Ben, as always, I agree with you, mostly. Couple of things I think you missed. The 1990 incident happened when I was an undergrad, and the signs you mentioned were actually planted by protesters, not by Fiji, which was really facing the heat for the offensive Fiji Islander caricature that a member put on some tee shirts. It was probably the first time the fraternity actually faced serious opposition to its boneheaded behavior. Also, as you know, the actions of a couple of members, such as in the assault, can’t be collectively assigned as blame, though it does point to a culture problem in the fraternity. Lastly, I think these problems are better left to social pressure and exposure rather than official punishment by the University–which would necessarily entail a conversation about free speech and association. We live in a country where you have the absolute right to be an asshole without official sanction. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to put up with it silently. Kudos to you for your article.

    • Ben Sherman

      Jay, thanks very much for your reply. Were the signs confirmed to be planted at the house? Or wasn’t there sufficient evidence on either side to make a definitive conclusion?

      A decades-long history of offensive (and sometimes criminal) behavior reveals a culture numb to social pressure and cultural development. It seems extremely reasonable for the university to enforce anti-discrimination guidelines for organizations chartered under its name. There’s an important distinction between policing individual group member speech and the speech of university organizations as a whole, as expressed through official events, rulebooks, promotional offers, and so forth. The university would do well to further explore that distinction; this trend is inherently harmful, and injures the university’s mission explicitly.

      Good to have you in the group of people not putting up with any of this silently.

  2. i agree wholeheartedly with freedom of speech, but when they represent a university through a fraternity, the university should get involved. Inciting hatred of other student populations should be treated as a violent act and punishable by local authorities as well as the university itself.

  3. I’m a student at UT now (not a Fiji, but friends with lots of “Greeks”), and while I don’t particularly like the guys, I have to step up here and say you’re being a bit riduclous. You can’t blame them for things that happened while we were all in middle school or not even born yet. Also, the theme wasn’t “border patrol” specifically, apparently a bunch of dumb sorority girls think that Fiji Marshals refers to the US Marshals, and that they wear camo? I’m not sure about that but the first time I heard it called “border patrol” was by the Daily Texan, and from what I hear the only border patrol agents there were females. I didn’t go, so I can’t be sure (and those pics were pretty bad), but people buy ponchos and sombreros from party city and wear them to various parties all the time, it doesn’t mean that you’re some awful racist and it definitely doesn’t mean that those throwing the party are to be burned at the stake for hosting. Lastly, you’re citing a Yik-Yak post about a girl getting punched. Yik-Yak. Look it up in the App Store. Also, it’s been confirmed by police that no ambulance ever went to Fiji that night, completely discrediting the claim. I heard a kid was hugging some drunk girl and dropped her or something. You can’t punish these guys formally, we, as students, have to stand up with real courage and engage in peaceful, logical discussion with the members of the greek community if we actually want to incite resounding change instead of meeting stereotypes with stereotypes and judging every member of a group by the appearance or actions of a few (sound familiar?).

  4. Since when does sighting hearsay as fact and reporting previously discredited reports of assault count as news reporting? As of earlier this week, the police had already discredited the Yik Yak claim. Further stringing together two incidents twenty five years apart hardly counts as “decades of racism”. Your characterization of the party as a “Border Patrol” party is just flat out wrong, Fiji’s have been having the party for years and it’s always a western themed party, but since you just copied that out of the Daily Texan article, I guess you really don’t care, do you? You didn’t actually try to get quotes from anyone there did you? You just wrote an article that fit your preconceived ideas.

    The real hatred here comes from the author, who is making a blatant attempt to smear fraternities because they don’t conform to your idea of a liberal utopia. Perhaps next year you’ll try to spin the Hurricane themed party as degrading to people of the Gulf Coast or maybe a Toga party is racist against Italians.

  5. What would happen if Hispanics dressed in suits and nice attire and threw a “whitey” party (yes it’s happened before). Where would we be then? Would we even be having this discussion? If something offends you either get over it and laugh it off or remove yourself from the situation. Inflammatory articles like this one are not going to solve the problem. Good try though.

  6. Who’s to say the FIJI boys aren’t mailing a donation check to the U.S. Border Patrol after the party? People sure are quick to judge.

  7. This is article was ridiculous to read… I’m not in Fiji and I really don’t care about their party. How do people have the time to get so worked up about a party theme. I had to wait in traffic today because cops blocked the street for idiots like you who protesting in the street causing way more of a disruption then there western themed party… I find it strange that these protesters can J walk, and hold up traffic and no one thinks that’s irresponsible. I know a fraternity represents the college, and racism shouldn’t be tolerated. However there are no facts that this was Mexican themed, people may have showed up in camo that thought it was army themed. I’ve also seen people wearing construction vests to rage at party’s. Also the cut out photos do look like themed party… Are toga party’s racist what about a hip hop themed party? You seem very quick to judge and stereotype people. If you think there are bunch of racists here, you are totally wrong my friend. Sorry for the bad grammar I was on my phone. Please respond back I would like to hear your comments.

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