UT Fraternity Goes Unpunished For Racist “Border Patrol” Party

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The University of Texas has declined to sanction or punish the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity, aka “Fiji,” for the“Border Patrol”-themed party they held that mocked stereotypes of Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans.

Anglo students attended in sombreros, ponchos, and construction gear, and sported name tags reading “El Jefe” on dudes that probably weren’t named Jeff. Here’s an image:

The news broke via Twitter in response to a student inquiry. The replies are also worth a read and a reminder that not all Longhorns think this kind of thing is Ok.

This is very far from the first racist incident at Fiji. As we published previously:

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.

Perhaps the administration simply lacks the cojones (or ovarios) to take action against the (usually) affluent (usually) white students. But take heed, UT:

This. Is. A. Recurring. Pattern.

Here’s how the play of events usually goes:

  • Student organization holds event that is easily and widely interpreted as racist (or at best, wildly ignorant and not befitting a purported institution of higher learning).
  • Students — especially those whose culture is being mocked in between keg stands and jello shots — react, speak out, and protest against the event.
  • Other students (usually Anglos) claim that it’s “not a big deal” and “like, not offensive.”
  • The University makes a statement, and though they are faced with actual sanctions — starting with banning the frat from the university — they don’t do anything.
  • Cycle continues.

The handy “two-page PDF guide” distributed to groups about how to avoid throwing a racially insensitive, offensive, or inflammatory event evidently isn’t doing the trick, so UT needs to stop touting that as any meaningful redress, sit the kids down, and actually teach them something about life in a diverse society.

UT can and should do better. They have tools at their disposal to send a strong message that this campus is no place for racial bias. A two-page PDF doesn’t cut it.

Since there seems to be no end to these events, UT needs to figure out how to actually do better when this inevitably occurs again. And hey, if the Legislature has their way, maybe next time it’ll involve guns.

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About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

5 Comments

  1. This is not a big deal. Let the develop into the fine men they seek to become… it’ll be easier to take them down, if they attain a position of power. More opportunities for us.

  2. Very well said. Money talks. UT is afraid of losing money from wealthy students, even after they’ve got enough.

  3. This article is so dumb. Why would you punish kids for wearing sombreros and ponchos. How is that making fun of a culture? It’s a party aren’t those considered party themed? People need to get a grip and not start spewing the word racism everytime another culture is part of a theme. Maybe we should get rid of cultures all together so we don’t have this problem. People are honestly idiots for condemning the party. Political correctness is destroying America.

  4. I have a few problems with the content in this article.

    First off, as someone who references cojones and suggests that UT sit these uncultured, insensitive kids down and teach them about diversity, I would expect that you do some research on what “El Jefe” means. “El Jefe” means the boss/the chief and while the insinuation still isn’t justified, as a PhD candidate, I would say you look just as unaware about some of the diversity as those poor “Anglo” kids.

    My second issue with your article is your poor attempt to create and link a recurring pattern of issues to the fraternity in question. There are 3 or 4 events, if you include this party, you mention to try and create this recurring pattern of delinquency that span over a period of 25 years! 25 YEARS! I don’t include the incident with the girl because that isn’t exclusive to this frat. That is something that occurs probably more frequently in a multitude of other places around Austin, even around the Fiji house in all honesty. You are making a severe reach if you seriously think that 4 events connected by 25 years establishes a recurring pattern, especially since there were different people in the organization at the time of each incident.

    Lastly, the argument that UT isn’t taking proper disciplinary action by not banning the fraternity from the university completely ignores laws and limitations that even UT has to follow. UT isn’t just BSing everyone by saying there isn’t anything we can do about a private party. That’s part of every American’s First Amendment Right. The freedom of speech and assembly, especially on private property. Just like you can say and do whatever you want on your private property, besides anything that violates the law, these students are allowed to do the same. Just because you don’t agree with the actions and find the actions deplorable, doesn’t mean you have any right to impede on someone else’s right to do that. The students didn’t break any laws by having the party be themed in that manner. Just because something is offensive doesn’t mean they can be punished for it, especially since the event occurred on private property. That’s the point of the First Amendment.

    Also, to put in my input about the situation, I think the theme of the party should have been handled better. But, I also think that everyone has a right to their own opinion and has a right to express that opinion in any way they choose so long as it doesn’t break the law. Just because something is offensive to me doesn’t mean that it should be removed and the people involved should be punished. That used to be how the world worked. But if people want change and progress, they need to remember that there are always people that are going to offend you. That doesn’t give you the right to prevent them from having their own opinions and expressing them as freely as you want to express your own.

    Hook’em.

    • Katherine Haenschen
      Katherine Haenschen on

      I want to set the record straight: Lou, aka Chris LaChance (christopher.lachance@utexas.edu) was concerned that his comment was not published in a timely manner and sent us the following email:

      While I understand you are the editor and publisher of Burnt Orange Report, I find it very telling on how you choose to filter the comments that show up on articles posted on your site. Like I stated in the comment I tried to post to an article you wrote, everyone’s right to free speech is something that should not be infringed upon. However, as someone who is trying to present articles in a journalistic fashion, the censoring of comments to avoid someone from voicing an opinion of disagreement to an article posted on your site is frustrating. Maybe you can understand now why there are people who refuse to listen to the vocal crowd calling for things that upset them to be removed. Why would I listen to anything you have to say if you aren’t willing to deal with comments opposing your own view.

      Just to set the record straight, the comments on our site are now manually approved and there was no intent to suppress young Mr. La Chance’s speech. Comments are approved as long as they are not obvious spam.

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