UC San Diego leaders condemn student party mocking Black History Month
UC San Diego leaders and civil rights activists have condemned a student party held Monday that mocked Black History Month with a ghetto-themed "Compton Cookout."
Campus administrators said Wednesday that they were investigating whether the off-campus party and its Facebook invitation violated the university’s code of conduct and whether its sponsors should be disciplined. Members of Pi Kappa Alpha were identified as among the organizers, but the fraternity president has criticized the event and said his club did not sponsor it.
In an e-mail to students and staff, UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said the party showed "blatant disregard of our campus values." She said the university would hold a teach-in next Wednesday "to discuss the importance of mutual respect and civility."
Penny Rue, vice chancellor for student affairs, said the probe would examine whether the fraternity was involved and whether it should face sanctions. She said that it was premature to discuss discipline for individual students but that she wanted partygoers to understand how much pain they had caused, especially to African American students.
Rue said she did not know how many people attended the event.
Promising a taste of "life in the ghetto," the Facebook invitation contained many racist stereotypes. For example, it urged women to dress as "ghetto chicks" who "usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes." It said the menu would include chicken and watermelon.
In an e-mail Wednesday, Garron Engstrom, president of Pi Kappa Alpha, emphasized that the party was not planned or endorsed by the club. "The fraternity regrets the display of ignorance and error-of-judgment made by any individual members who may have attended or were associated via social media with the racially offensive party," he wrote. "These actions are in direct violation of Pike’s code of conduct, and appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken."
History professor Danny Widener, who directs the African American studies program at the campus, said he was outraged but not surprised by the party. He said African American students make up less than 2% of undergraduates at UC San Diego, which he described as inhospitable to them. "The campus climate is one in which you are constantly regarded as a statistical anomaly at best," he said.
The professor also criticized Fox’s response as "tepid" and urged strong action against the party organizers, including expulsion if they are found to have used UC computers or facilities to send the invitation.
Chris Strudwick-Turner, vice president of the Los Angeles Urban League, also urged a tough response. "If campus climate is important, a message needs to be sent that this is not acceptable," she said.
In Sacramento, Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) said leaders of the Legislature’s black, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, gay and women's caucuses would gather outside the Capitol on Thursday to condemn the party.
-- Larry Gordon