By ZAC HARDWICK, The Dartmouth StaffApril 25, 2014
The presidents of Alpha Phi sorority and Phi Delta Alpha fraternity canceled “Phiesta,” an annual philanthropic event planned for Saturday, after students raised concerns about the theme’s possible cultural insensitivity, A Phi president Courtney Wong ’15 said.
“We take these concerns very seriously,” Wong said. “And we want to make sure that we respect the diversity of the broader community.”
Phi Delt president Taylor Cathcart ’15 reiterated Wong’s comments, emphasizing that he supported canceling the event.
“We felt that the possibility of offending even one member of the Dartmouth community was not worth the potential benefits of having the fundraiser,” Cathcart said.
All proceeds would have gone toward cardiac care, according to the Facebook invitation.
Dartmouth community members were invited to join Greek members on Phi Delt’s lawn of for a performance by campus band “Burn the Barn,” free virgin piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris, chips and salsa, homemade guacamole and Boloco burritos.
Yesterday, upon hearing about the event, Daniela Hernandez ’15 sent an email to Greek Letter Organizations and Societies, GLOS director Wes Schaub, Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership and the Panhellenic Council.
In the email, Hernandez raised concerns, including those about racial insensitivity.
“There are various problematic structures and ideologies regarding a Cinco de Mayo-inspired event, and I am sure that we, as a Dartmouth community, could learn from the extensive literature written about the Americanization of Cinco de Mayo and its construction as a drinking holiday in the United States, cultural appropriation and the inappropriate usage of cultural clothing, and the exploitation of groups of people and cultures for the sake of business opportunities,” Hernandez said in an email to The Dartmouth.
While offended, Hernandez said she was not taken aback when she heard about the event.
“As a Mexican-born, United-States-raised, first-generation woman of color, it was sadly unsurprising that a culturally-themed party was seen as a casual venture for such a privileged institution such as Dartmouth,” she said. “I believe that social consciousness and cultural awareness is something that we need to work on as a community.”
By press time, she had not received a response, she said. Hernandez’s email was not sent directly to the presidents of A Phi or Phi Delt, but Schaub later alerted them to the email, Wong said.
OPAL director Alysson Satterlund said these kinds of events do not represent Dartmouth’s values.
“Events that mock and marginalize others certainly do not reflect our Principle of Community and do not reflect values of inclusion, respect and a care for others,” she said in an email to The Dartmouth.
Thursday night at the Tabard coed fraternity, 15 Phi Delt, A Phi and Tabard members gathered informally to discuss the event once concerns were raised that “Phiesta” was “not necessarily the most politically correct event,” Tabard president Connie Gong ’15 said.
The meeting aimed to encourage inter-campus dialogue and talk to both Greek and non-Greek community leaders as equals, Gong said. The meeting, Gong said, was exclusively for members of A Phi, Phi Delt and Tabard.
“We essentially wanted to open channels of communication more to Greek leaders to make sure the concerns of members both inside and outside of the Greek community could be addressed and taken seriously by the relevant people in positions of authority,” she said.
Moving forward, Wong said the houses hope to organize a philanthropic event that people feel they can participate in without being offended. The houses will take precautions when organizing future events, she said, including talking to different campus groups to ensure that these concerns are not raised again.
Satterlund suggested discussing ideas with administrators and faculty members before moving forward with an event.
Similar concerns were raised last summer after Alpha Delta fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority co-hosted a “Bloods and Crips”-themed party, sparking national media attention. Tri Delt and AD presidents proposed a new Greek Leadership Council policy asking Greek organizations that receive complaints regarding community standards to adjudicate the accused individuals in-house or participate in mediation sessions with the complainants.
GLC members approved the policy unanimously in February, adopting it into the organization’s bylaws.
AD, Gamma Delta Chi, Epsilon Kappa Theta, Kappa Delta, Chi Gamma Epsilon, Kappa Delta Epsilon, Alpha Xi Delta, the Tabard, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Chi Heorot and Bones Gate were co-sponsors of the event, according to the Facebook invitation.
The Facebook event was canceled at about 9:30 p.m. yesterday.
GLC, Panhell and the Inter-Fraternity Council did not respond to requests for comment by press time.