Due to the discovery of an “offensive” photo by the Penn State Panhellenic Council, one Panhellenic chapter at Penn State is under investigation by the Panhellenic Council executive board, according to a statement released by the board.
Jessica Riccardi, the president of the Nu Gamma chapter of Chi Omega, confirmed that Chi Omega is the sorority under investigation by releasing an apology.
“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,” Riccardi said.
A photo circulated on Tumblr Monday night depicting members of the Chi Omega chapter at Penn State dressed in ponchos and sombreros. In the photo, members of the sorority are holding two signs — one that reads “Will mow lawn for weed + beer” and another that reads “I don’t cut grass I smoke it.”
“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 Tuesday. “We are addressing the situation immediately with the members of the chapter in conjunction with their national headquarters.”
Amanda Cillo, vice president of communications for the Panhellenic Council, said that the council first received reports of a photo via email about one day before they obtained the photo. Once they obtained the photo, the Panhellenic executive board began looking into the details of the situation including the chapter in question.
The Executive Board of the Panhellenic Council continued on in its statement to say that they are disappointed with the chapter.
“The Penn State Panhellenic Council does not condone any form of derogatory behavior from any of our members. Our Council and all its members strive to hold ourselves to a high standard and are disappointed by any failure to meet these expectations,” the board said in the statement.
Whitney Heckathorne, the director of communications for Chi Omega said in a statement the national headquarters is working with Penn State’s Panhellenic Council about remedying the situation with the Nu Gamma chapter.
“Currently, the national organization is working with Penn State’s local Panhellenic on educational directives for our Nu Gamma Chapter, particularly regarding appropriate sensitivity to others and bystander behavior,” Heckathorne wrote in an email.
Chi Omega headquarters does not approve of the behaviors of the Nu Gamma chapter.
“Chi Omega believes that dignity, self-esteem, and respect are inalienable rights of each individual and neither endorses nor condones behavior that violates our organization’s policy on human dignity or the basic tenets of our Sisterhood,” Heckathorne wrote.
Ariel Coronel, president of the Penn State Latino Caucus, said the situation shows cultural ignorance.
“In terms of the Latino Caucus, the portrayal of sombreros, ponchos and mustaches are a huge over simplification of what not only the Mexican but the Latino culture is like,” Coronel said. “It's being culturally ignorant, and I really do hope that the sorority tries to become culturally aware so this type of incident doesn't happen again and that people will realize that this is racially and culturally insensitive.”
Ryan Brown, president of the Penn State Student Black Caucus, said he is happy the situation has not gone unnoticed and is pleased that it's being handled properly.
“The thing I try to get across to people is that we are not a stereotype,” Brown (senior-arts integrative) said. "Our culture is not something to be made a mockery of. It's not something to be made a joke of.”