Photos showing students at both Baylor and Penn State Universities dressed in Mexican costumes, deemed by some as "racist" and "offensive," have raised an online firestorm and have prompted at least one investigation.
Last week, as first reported by Latinorebels.com, two photos emerged on Baylor student Hannah Ray's public Facebook profile depicting a group of girls dressed in ponchos, sombreros, mustaches, the resemblance of dirt on their faces, and signs around their necks that read "Green Card?"
A second photo posted on Ray's Instagram shows the same Baylor girls climbing over a makeshift wall that appears to resemble a border fence.
Not only have they chosen to stereotype our culture with serapes and sombreros, but the insinuation about drug usage makes this image more offensive. Our country is plagued by a drug war ...which is nothing to be joked about.
- Cesar Sanchez Lopez, PSU VP of Mexican American Student Association
The photo has since been removed but according to Latinorebels.com the caption read: "Best entrance ever #lodge #mexicans #hoppinthafence viva mexicooooo!!"
The school has not ordered an official inquiry.
However, this week at Penn State University, the sorority chapter of Chi Omega is under investigation for a photo showing students dressed in ponchos, sombreros, fake mustaches and two signs that read: “Will mow lawn for weed + beer” and “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it.”
The Nu Gamma chapter of Chi Omega has apologized since the photo made its rounds on Tumblr Monday, according to the school newspaper "The Daily Collegiate."
"Our chapter of Chi Omega sincerely apologizes for portraying inappropriate and untrue stereotypes. The picture in question does not support any of Chi Omega’s values or reflect what the organization aspires to be," Jessica Riccardi, Nu Gamma chapter president, told "The Daily Collegiate."
Both the school's Panhellenic Council, which oversees Greek life on campus, as well as Chi Omega's national headquarters are investigating the situation.
"The Penn State Panhellenic Council recognizes the offensive nature of the photo and is therefore taking the matter very seriously,” the Panhellenic Council executive board said in a statement released Wednesday and obtained by the school paper. “We are addressing the situation immediately with the members of the chapter in conjunction with their national headquarters.”
The photo has also sparked controversy on Penn State's campus. Vice President of the Mexican American Student Association, Cesar Sanchez Lopez, told an independent Penn State blog called the Onward State that he was "disappointed."
“The Mexican American Student Association is disappointed in the attire chosen by this sorority. It in no way represents our culture," Lopez said in a statement. "Not only have they chosen to stereotype our culture with serapes and sombreros, but the insinuation about drug usage makes this image more offensive. Our country is plagued by a drug war that has led to the death of an estimated 50,000 people, which is nothing to be joked about.”
No word on whether the girls from Baylor were affiliated with a sorority but the school has acknowledged that Ray attends the University.
Lori Fogleman, Director of Media Communications for Baylor University told Latinorebels.com the school had "no idea where these images came from, or where the party was held."
She also said, "Without hesitation, Baylor is an academic community that does not and would not tolerate racism on our campus. If there is an offensive act on our campus and it's brought to our attention, we have established numerous processes for people to report anonymously issues of any kind. So if brought to our attention, then those alleged incidents are thoroughly investigated by the university."
According to Fogleman, the situation has not been reported through any of the official processes, and therefore is not under official review at this time.