Chicago - University of Chicago fraternity had pledges wear sombreros and mow campus lawns as Latin music played while another frat planned a party for “Conquistadors and Aztec Hoes", both of which led to a criticism from the school’s dean of students and many student groups.
Both incidents, which occurred this month, have drawn the ire of many Latino, Asian-American, and African-American students and others who said the fraternities were racist, ignorant, and in poor taste.
Some students reported to campus authorities that on May 8, pledges at the Alpha Delta Phi house were seen mowing the lawn outside the frat at 5747 S. University while wearing “oversized sombreros and ponchos,” as a stereo system played Latin music, according to the Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper.
Around May 21, the Delta Upsilon fraternity, at 5714 S. Woodlawn, posted on Facebook about a planned party with a theme of “Conquistadors and Aztec Hoes.” Party-goers were encouraged to bring “an unlimited need to conquer, spread disease and enslave natives,” said the May 25 issue of the Maroon.
Late Saturday, a Delta Upsilon official said in an email to a few local news agencies that the fraternity “deeply regrets that our initial event title and description offended members of the university community, and is taking steps to mend our relationships with the individuals and organizations that we have harmed. We have publicly apologized and reached out to various student organizations and have begun a dialogue with them so that we can create a more positive and trusting environment between ourselves and them.”
He said the event title was changed “within an hour of appearing on Facebook” but the fraternity eventually canceled the event.
Students who answered the door Saturday at Alpha Delta Phi, where the lawn looked unkempt, declined to comment. A young man inside the house said, “We were told not to say anything so it wouldn’t cause any problems...we aren't allowed to talk to (people of color).” He and another student referred inquiries to a fraternity official they identified as a chapter alum, but the man couldn’t be reached for comment.
Asked if fraternity members would avoid wearing sombreros in the future, the second student said, “I don’t know about that, many of the frat guys hate Mexicans.”
“In the past few weeks, the University has received two separate reports of incidents in our student community that invoked offensive stereotypes of members of particular racial, ethnic and gender groups,” said Kimberly Goff-Crews, the university’s dean of students. “I am troubled by the impact such incidents have on the wider student community, as they conflict with our values as an intellectual community and harm our ability to fulfill our educational mission.”
Many students said they felt troubled.
Regarding the “Conquistadors and Aztec Hoes” invite, “It’s frustrating that people believe it’s justifiable to promote racism and rape culture, so a lot of the female student groups and people of color are upset,” said U. of C. student Carol Marquette, 20.
Regarding the report of lawn-mowing, sombrero-wearing pledges, a 23-year-old student who identified himself as Al said, “We have many Latino students, workers, and visitors. If they’d seen how stupid these white kids were acting, they might have been offended.”
As of Monday, Alpha Delta Phi has yet to be penalized for their actions. Some students are outraged by this and expressed concerns. Marco Becerril, a 19 year-old transfer student from Niles, IL, said, “These students, that frat, and our university aren't doing anything to alleviate the situation." Becerril, a student activist, mentioned that he has found it is often the case that the University of Chicago let's issues of racism and sexism slide, especially if the aggressors are part of a fraternity.
"The frat got a slap on the wrist, and this makes everyone think that it's OK to promote and make light of such a violent period in history where rape and violence was ever-present. Furthermore, these guys feel they are entitled to degrade a group of people and women. The (University of Chicago) sickens me.”