UCSD probing off-campus party
Event held to mock Black History Month
By Eleanor Yang Su, Union-Tribune Staff
LA JOLLA - University of California San Diego officials have begun an investigation into the off-campus party held Monday that mocked Black History Month, and hope to decide within the next few weeks whether students involved with the event will be disciplined.
The party sparked outrage on a campus that has struggled for years to recruit black students, and the president of the fraternity whose members helped organize the event issued an apology yesterday.
“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,” Garron Engstrom, chapter president of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, said in the statement.
Engstrom, who didn’t respond to requests for comment, noted that the party was not an official fraternity event. He said disciplinary actions have been taken against some members and that all members attending the party have been encouraged “to reach out to the African-American community.”
Campus administrators have identified nine partygoers and are trying to learn their motivation for holding the event, said Penny Rue, UCSD’s vice chancellor for student affairs.
“The most important thing for me is having the students understand the impact of their actions on the rest of the community,” Rue said. “And secondly, to understand what they were thinking.”
In an invitation circulated on Facebook, party organizers said they would be serving “Kegs of Natty, dat Purple Drank - which consists of sugar, water, and the color purple, chicken, coolade, and of course Watermelon.”
Male partygoers were urged in the invitation to wear white T-shirts, with “XXXL smallest size acceptable.” Female attendees were given this guidance: “Ghetto chicks have a very limited vocabulary, and attempt to make up for it, by forming new words, such as ‘constipulated’, or simply cursing persistently, or using other types of vulgarities, and making noises, such as ‘hmmg!’, or smacking their lips, and making other angry noises, grunts, and faces.”
Rue said it’s too early to say whether student conduct codes have been violated, but she noted that many policies don’t apply off campus. In the case of the party, fewer rules apply because the event wasn’t sanctioned or organized by a specific student organization, just fraternity members.
UCSD’s conduct code bars cheating, theft and sexual offenses, among other things. For off-campus incidents, the university has discretion to discipline students for misconduct “under limited circumstances,” based on the seriousness of the misconduct, impact on the campus community and the university’s ability to gather information.
Justin A. Buck, executive vice president at the fraternity’s headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., denounced the actions of the UCSD members involved in the incident and said the fraternity’s constitution doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race.
Several UCSD students said they have been unimpressed by the university’s response, especially given the larger challenge it faces in recruiting black students, who make up less than 2 percent of undergraduates.
“The students are fed up,” said David Ritcherson, the head of UCSD’s Black Student Union. “The campus climate is horrible. People are thinking about transferring.”
Others say the administration has overreacted and shouldn’t get involved with off-campus parties.
Bryan Kim, a UCSD senior from Central California, said he had been planning to host a similar racially themed party this month tied to Black History Month. He wanted attendees to dress up as “gangsta” rappers and participate in a costume contest judged by a black friend.“People laugh at stereotypes because there’s an element of fun,” Kim said. “People need to get a sense of humor or they’re just going to spend their whole life being angry about things they can’t control.”