Racism on campus, conflict around frat party sparks student protest at U of C

CHICAGO -- Students at the University of Chicago say school officials aren't doing enough to curb acts of racism at the school.

About 50 students gathered on campus Friday for a protest.

Just last week, this group says white supremacist flyers were posted on campus with hateful images and language toward Arab and Muslim students.

Earlier this month, students heard about a Cinco de Mayo party planned at the Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity where brothers were allegedly asked to dress up as Mexican construction workers wearing fake mustaches and hard hats as part of their costume.

Students part of the multicultural UChicago United group reached out to the fraternity to ask them to change the theme, and at the time, were told that they would do so.

"They seemed very responsive...but then they still went through the party," said student Gloria Morales. "What that shows us is that the university has not created an environment in which the fraternities feel any accountability."

The fraternity however put out a statement explaining the situation surrounding the party was a misunderstanding.

In their statement, the fraternity said the construction themed party they held was a play on the renovation and construction occurring at their fraternity home for the past two years. The theme was intended to celebrate the near complete renovation of their home’s basement and just happened to fall on the weekend of Cinco De Mayo. In their statement, they said "they would like to reiterate that the intent of this event was not tied to the aforementioned holiday. The term Cinco de Mayo was never used to promote the party.”

Despite the debate surrounding the party’s theme, the fraternity did address that a few members had acted recklessly, stating that one member made an insensitive comment in the Facebook group in anticipation of the event. They added that the post was taken down and that member had been suspended indefinitely.

University officials say fraternities are a separate entity and are not considered a student group on campus, and thus cannot be disciplined through the university. But that is something that UChicago United wants to be changed.

The university released the following statement:

"The University of Chicago has an unwavering commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion. The members of our University community are dedicated to continue addressing these matters, and have taken steps to improve in these areas, such as the recent climate survey on diversity and inclusion and the subsequent discussions around campus focused on these topics. We look forward to continued conversation and engagement across campus to provide a deeper understanding of the issues facing our campus."

The fraternity also issued an apology in their statement to "any individual or groups that may have felt marginalized by the event," saying that "FIJI was and is meant to represent a safe space on the University’s campus, and we fell short of our goal."