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Frat party condemned as 'racially insensitive' over its ... construction-worker theme

A University of Chicago fraternity caught heat for its 'racially insensitive' construction worker-themed party that took place just past midnight on May 6. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

It seems the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at the University of Chicago wanted to deliver an "ironic response" to the "seemingly endless" renovations at its house on campus — so the lads planned a bash with a construction-worker theme.

Problem was that the party was planned for Cinco de Mayo.

See, a handful of student groups warned the campus community in a joint May 4 letter to not "perpetuate the racist stereotypes associated with this holiday." The letter doesn't mention construction-worker garb as an issue, but it does say an offensive prior example was when frat brothers were spotted "mowing their lawn in serapes" (i.e., shawls).

Even though Cinco de Mayo wasn't mentioned in advertisements for the party, some didn't appreciate what they perceived as the frat's correlation between construction-worker garb and the Mexican day of celebration.

So prior to the shindig, the student group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA) said one of its members talked to the Phi Gamma Delta party organizer about concerns that the theme could be "construed as racially insensitive." The frat brother indicated the party would be changed, and indeed a Facebook page advertising the party — with the handle "get hammered" — was altered with construction-worker references removed.

Phi Gamma Delta even agreed to change the time of the party to midnight so it would fall on May 6 instead of May 5, the student newspaper,  Chicago Maroon, reported.

Nevertheless, folks showed up in construction-worker garb anyway — and that ticked off MEChA, which tore into Phi Gamma Delta over those who came dressed in "hard hats and construction vests.”

The group penned a May 8 complaint — co-signed by the Organization of Latin American Students, the Organization of Black Students, the African Caribbean Students Association, the Muslim Students Association and the PanAsia Solidarity Coalition — saying the "chapter directly went against their word, and broke their stated values of ‘morality’ and ‘leadership,’ and completely disregarded the concern expressed by MEChA de UChicago and various other individuals and cultural groups on campus.”

The complaint also accuses Phi Gamma Delta of putting on the "construction-themed party to demonstrate their privilege and authority by blatantly disregarding the concerns of marginalized groups without facing disciplinary actions.”

“Moreover, this event was an attack on the mental and emotional well-being of marginalized students on campus,” according to the complaint, which also urged the school to “take prompt action to protect marginalized students.”

Fraternity president Clyde Anderson said in a letter obtained by the Maroon that “no brothers who wore construction attire had any part of their attire with Hispanic connotation” and “there were absolutely no party decorations or any aspects of the party with Mexican theme or appearance besides the date of the event.

"We would like to express our sincerest apologies to any individual who may have felt discriminated against by the event," Anderson continued. "We should have been more proactive in preventing any sort of perceived discrimination to be involved in our event. Our intent was only to host an event in celebration of the (near) completion of the lengthy construction process of our house, which is still ongoing. The intent was entirely positive, and in no way meant to belittle any people group."

A few commenters on the Maroon story were less conciliatory, however.

"Good lord, pretty soon just blinking will be considered racist. How the hell do they conflate construction and cinco de mayo??" one person wrote. "What do they have in common?? Oh right, nothing."

"The only ignorant ill-intentioned appropriation is when we let the loons from the left be heard as if they were sane or had meaningful things to say rather than laugh in their faces as they richly deserve," another person noted.

"So we need to ban Bob the Builder now?" another commenter asked. "I will be watching the response of the administration. They should not give this complaint the slightest bit of consideration. And I will continue to consider May 5th just another day on my calendar. If I happen to have a margarita with friends on the 5th, I'm certainly not going to worry about what MEChA has to say. In fact, maybe I'll even drink an oversized margarita out of a construction hat — salted rim and all."

The University of Chicago doesn't formally recognize fraternities and sororities, but college spokesperson Marielle Sainvilus told the Maroon that officials are looking into the matter. The paper added that individual members of Greek organizations can be disciplined.

This story has been updated.

(H/T: Campus Reform)

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