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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Student groups push for discussion on cultural awareness after sorority incident

A recent incident regarding sorority members dressed in culturally insensitive Halloween costumes sparked a question of whether there is enough education and awareness about cultural groups on campus.

On Monday, a few members of the Delta Delta Delta sorority were wearing sombreros and mustaches, prompting individuals from Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán to protest outside of the sorority house.

Delta Delta Delta released a formal apology in a letter to the Daily Wildcat regarding Monday’s incident.

The letter stated that the organization is aware of the cultural insensitivity displayed by the members’ costumes on Monday.

The letter also stated that “Immediate action has been taken to remedy the situation including a formal apology, a commitment to educating all chapter members on cultural sensitivity, and correspondence with campus organizations.”

The incident occurred the same day that the assistant dean of students for Fraternity & Sorority Programs sent out an email to all greek chapters on campus addressing Halloween costumes and racial sensitivity. Johanne Ives, assistant dean of students for Fraternity & Sorority Programs, said in an  email statement that Monday’s email was an effort to address how Halloween costumes can be racially insensitive.

“We wanted to educate students in the greek community about this problem and raise awareness about the issue of cultural appropriation during Halloween, all in an effort to help them make good informed decisions about what they select to wear,” Ives said in an email statement.

Ives also said in her email that she thinks cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes is a problem everywhere and not limited to the university. Ives said in the email that some greek chapters have programs aimed to promote education on diversity.

“But I think it is an area of opportunity for the entire community, as not all chapters do workshops on cultural competency or diversity,” Ives said in her email statement.

Brittany Maldonado, member of the Sigma Lambda Gamma sorority, said culturally insensitive Halloween costumes are problems that needs to be fixed.

“I think the [UA] should do a little more than sending out an email  to the greek community regarding … culturally insensitive costumes,” Maldonado said.

Members from MEChA at the protest, as well as individuals from the African American Student Alliance and Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs, said the issue lies in a lack of education about different cultural groups.

Richard Ruiz, department head of Mexican American Studies, said there is a campuswide need for UA students to learn more about other cultures and that the issue extends past “cultural insensitivity.”

“That’s the real problem: People don’t have the understanding or knowledge of these communities,” Ruiz said.

Socorro Carrizosa, program director for Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs, said she would love to see officers from Greek Life chapters and all programs and clubs within the Associated Students of the University of Arizona participate in a semester-long program offered through the Common Ground Alliance.

In this program, students can earn two credits, meeting weekly to discuss social group identities and engage in more awareness. Carrizosa said the class has been around for at least four years.

“This is an opportunity for us to come together,” Carrizosa said. “To talk about why this is happening. To educate and inform.”

Carrizosa also said she wouldn’t be surprised if other incidents, similar to what occurred on Monday, happen frequently on campus.

“Many times, our insensitivity is much more than we understand and realize,” Carrizosa said.

Karlyn Bradley, a junior studying political science and communications, said the lack of cultural awareness on campus is a problem. Bradley said there are resources on campus available that Greek Life organizations, along with other campus organizations, can seek out to learn about other cultural and social groups.

“[But] it’s not the responsibility of the marginalized people to educate the privileged group,” Bradley said.

Bradley said a lack of understanding of a culture represented in a Halloween costume is what makes the costume racially insensitive and that it’s “costume-ing” a person’s being.“As people of color, we don’t get to take it off,” Bradley said. “I don’t get to stop being black just because it’s not Halloween anymore. It’s this idea of, ‘Oh, I get to enjoy the fun aspects of a culture, but I don’t have to endure the implications that come along with that.’”

Bradley said Halloween costumes that are caricatures of a certain cultural group are microaggressions and what the Delta Delta Delta sorority members did Monday evening is a microaggression.

“Just because it’s not explicit doesn’t mean it’s not racist,” Bradley said.

­— Christianna Silva contributed reporting to this article

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Follow Meghan Fernandez on Twitter.

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