The Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at the University of Texas at Austin has come under fire after it hosted a party with a “border patrol” theme party on Saturday. Many of the attendees wore sombreros, ponchos and construction hats with the word “Jefe” on it.
The university said it was investigating the matter.
“We take the complaints that we have received very seriously but are still gathering information to determine any appropriate response,” UT spokesman Gary Susswein told Fox News Latino. “We will work through our established procedures regarding potential bias incidents.”
Andrew Campbell, the president of the fraternity, which is known as “Fiji,” denied to the university student newspaper, the Daily Texan, that the party had a border patrol theme. The party was an annual event, the Fiji Marshals party, “which focuses on the traditional old west,” Campbell said.
A number of the several hundred attendees, however, told the Daily Texan that the theme was communicated to them as a “border control” party.
"That is what party attendees confirmed,” Daily Texan managing editor Jordan Rudner told USA Today. “I know that wasn't the official title of the event but everyone there seemed to think that was what the theme was."
Calls and emails to several people at the Daily Texan were not immediately returned.
"It's unfortunate because we are trying to promote a campus climate that is welcoming and inclusive for all and when these incidents happen they just kind of set us back a little bit," Erica Saenz, an associate vice president at the University of Texas, told USA Today.
Campbell told the Daily Texan in an emailed statement that the fraternity doesn't endorse racism.
"We notified our chapter prior to the party via email that the theme was western — not south of the border or anything Mexican related ... If any individual or cultural groups were offended, Texas Fiji apologizes for any insensitivity that our guests or members may have portrayed. It is never Texas Fiji's intent to alienate or demean any ethnic group."
Coincidently on Monday, UT Austin’s Campus Climate Response Team issued a trend report about bias incidents during the 2013-14 academic year. The group received 670 reports from students and alumni involving 69 separate “bias incidents” – a 713 percent increase over the previous academic year.
Nearly 90 percent of those complaints stemmed from just two incidents that occurred in 2013, when a campus group, the Young Conservatives of Texas, held an “affirmative-action bake sale” in September and two months later organized a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” game that was cancelled the day before it was to be held.
“The university definitely tries to ensure a very inclusive atmosphere for all students,” Riley Brands, the Daily Texan’s editor-in-chief, told the Washington Post, “and it does succeed in that in any number of ways. But there’s still a dark underbelly that surfaces sometimes in stories like these.”
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