A quinceanera-themed party hosted by Delta Chi on Sept. 21 has been met with controversy by students of color and has prompted the introduction of an ASUC Senate bill condemning the event.
Many students criticized the party as an act of cultural appropriation of Latino culture. The bill, SB 16, calls for the ASUC to “condemn culturally appropriated theme parties” and urges the university to implement a racial sensitivity curriculum for the Greek community.
The bill also asks Delta Chi to write a public apology to the campus Latino community for appropriating its cultural traditions and reproducing cultural stereotypes for entertainment purposes.
According to SB 16, authored by CalSERVE Senator Wendy Pacheco, some party attendees were dressed in attire “reflective of ‘cholos.’ ”
“For people in the Mexican community, quinceaneras are usually for young women who transition from being a girl into a woman,” Pacheco said. “That’s very important in our community, and for someone to take that and turn it into a party scene and dress up with sombreros and mustaches and reflect those stereotypes of what Mexican culture is is not OK.”
Members of the fraternity, however, say there was no ill intent behind the party or its theme, which Delta Chi President Cody Kermanian said was suggested by Mexican members of the fraternity.
“A lot of the rhetoric in the bill assumes what our thoughts were without even talking to us about it,” Kermanian said. “The intention was never to marginalize, and it never has been nor will be.”
Student Action Senator Liza Raffi, who is a member of the Greek community, was in attendance at the party. She said her costume and the costumes of friends were not meant to mock Latino culture.
“If there were derogatory costumes there, I did not see them, but I understand that everyone’s definition of offensive is different,” Raffi said. “I now understand that the idea of a fiesta plays into larger concern of cultural appropriation that has history stretching beyond the party.”
According to Dustin Page, a LEAD Center coordinator for fraternity and sorority advising and leadership development, fraternity chapters must register social events through their respective councils, which then share the events with the LEAD Center for review. The LEAD Center is a unit of the ASUC Auxiliary in student affairs, and it advises CalGreeks as well as other student organizations.
Page said that because Delta Chi’s event was not registered with the Interfraternity Council, the LEAD Center had no prior knowledge of it.
The party at Delta Chi is part of a larger pattern of cultural appropriation on campus, said David Jaramillo, a sponsor of the bill and a member of a campus Latino fraternity, Lambda Upsilon Lambda.
“We are a part of CalGreeks, and we feel very disappointed in the fact that the Greek community is continuously perpetrating acts of cultural insensitivity and racism,” Jaramillo said.
Last year, another campus fraternity faced condemnation from the ASUC Senate. The fraternity, Theta Delta Chi, was accused of racism after hanging a figure outside of its house during Halloween. Although the fraternity claimed the figure was a zombie, others said the decoration resembled a lynching. In response, the senate approved a bill that urged the campus and the Interfraternity Council to hold Theta Delta Chi “responsible for reckless disregard of the risk of terrorizing the campus community.”
SB 16 also includes language referencing the “Compton Cookout,” an event hosted by a UC San Diego fraternity stereotyping black culture that garnered national attention.
External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai, however, who is an active member of the Greek community, said Delta Chi’s party cannot be compared to the Compton Cookout. She said the bill uses examples of racial insensitivity from other schools to villainize the Greek community.
“Cultural appropriation is a problem across campus, not just the Greek community,” Mecklai said. “I think it would be more constructive to look at the climate of the entire campus.”