Mexican themed parties offend students


When sophomore Krizza Jimenez read about the Mexican themed party thrown at Penn State last December, she was appalled.
Since then, some Greek chapters have thrown parties deemed offensive to different groups. Two weeks ago, IU's Kappa Delta sorority threw a homeless party. Not long after, Irvine's Lambda Theta Delta fraternity posted a blackface video on Youtube for an event. DePauw students and greek life coordinators commented on such themed parties and what should happen if such parties took place at DePauw.
The Penn State party Jimenez read about featured photographs of Chi Omega women in sombreros and ponchos, holding signs that read, "Will mow lawn for weed and beer," and "I don't cut grass, I smoke it."
"I found that one to be very offensive because you're basically making a mockery of someone's culture," Jimenez said.
Jimenez thought the IU homeless party was also classless, as it was poking fun at others' social statuses. But she also thinks that some parties that have happened at DePauw recently could qualify as offensive.
"I know that one of the fraternities here had an event where you had to dress up like a redneck," she said. "That was just one party that I didn't go to."
Another DePauw party Jimenez avoided involved a theme of "business hoes," which she thought sexualized women.
When asked about the Cinco de Mayo celebrations often thrown on campus, Jimenez said that if the party was a celebration, she wouldn't think it was offensive, but if it involved people dressed up as stereotypical Mexicans, she would.
Senior Marycruz Baylon, a member of Sigma Lambda Gamma, said that during her freshman year, there was an incident involving a Cinco de Mayo party thrown by a fraternity on campus.
Baylon said the party was planned around the time of Cinco de Mayo, with a theme of "Mexican celebration."
"There [was] a Facebook event that kind of said, 'Let's party, take some time from not mowing lawns ... thank all our Mexican workers and just come out to so n' so fraternity to have a good time," Baylon said.
Baylon, as a member of Committee for Latino Concerns, was part of a protest against the event and an educational process about the holiday. CLC had also involved President Brian Casey, and the Facebook page was eventually taken down. The person who created the page had to apologize to the people they offended.
"I am a Latina on DePauw's campus, and for me, that experience was really horrible being a first-year," Baylon said. "It kind of hit home because it just brought up a lot of stereotypes."
She said if a Greek house has thrown a party that may be offensive to a group, that action against it should be taken. There could also be a forum with Greek life coordinators, President Casey, and anyone who was offended, where they could talk in a safe space and educate the Greek house why the theme could be offensive.
Myrna Hernandez, a Greek life coordinator, said that if an organization at DePauw were to throw a party that could be seen as offensive, the reflective conversations on the back end are very important.
"It's not just one single thing that determines a response, it's more multilayered than that," Hernandez said. "It's not only just talking with the organization who threw the party, it's talking to students who may or may not have been impacted."
It also depends on how the Greek life coordinators find out about the party. Although they do have an event registration process, they don't have a specific party approval process.
In regard to themed parties in general, Hernandez said that she thinks there's a difference between a party focusing on a period of time and a party focusing on a group of people.
Hernandez said that when parties focus on a part of the population, things can be problematic. But she also thinks the reason why people throw events plays an important role, such as different reasons for throwing a Cinco de Mayo party.
"It's one thing to go to Party City and to buy decorations and serve margaritas, and it's another thing to be costumed and try to represent a culture," Hernandez said.
Though she said many things in the media about themed parties in and of themselves haven't been positive, there can be a positive result in terms of preventing future offenses.
"I think students learning from other people's mistakes would be one really good way of prevention," Hernandez said.
P.J. Mitchell, another Greek life coordinator, said that they have tried to educate students about certain holidays that may create potential opportunities for insensitive behavior and caricaturing.
"In terms of offensiveness, I think it's the job of students who are hosting it to consider the impact that their events might have on students," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said they also try to keep in mind that what might be offensive to one student might not be offensive to another.
Educating students who host events, opening up conversations on campus, and learning from other campuses' themed parties might be effective ways to prevent future offenses.
"How do we learn from Irvine? How do we learn from IU? And how to we take that and turn it into productive conversation for our students who are hosting?" Mitchell said.
Using the timeliness of national and local news stories and their impact might spark important questions on any campus, and give people the opportunity to consider and reconsider their actions, and their potential impact.