It was standing room only Wednesday night in the basement of the Willard Building where the Mexican-American Student Association discussed during their general body meeting what could be done to proactively fight against the image portrayed in the Nu Gamma Chapter of Chi Omega photo, which stereotyped the Mexican culture.
“I hope this meeting comes out with an understanding that this is wrong and we need to do something about it,” said President of the Latino Caucus Ariel Coronel.
Members of the Penn State Student Black Caucus, the Penn State Chapter of the NAACP, the Latino Caucus, the Filipino Association, the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, and faculty members gathered to voice their opinions. During the course of the meeting, it was suggested to head to the University Park Undergraduate Association to voice their upset and suggestions for moving forward after their discussion.
UPUA Chief of Staff John Zang attended the meeting and said that he came in order for the UPUA to make themselves available and find anything they can do to support the diverse population.
Laura Ariza, a graduate student, told the audience that the part most offensive to her were the signs held up by the sorority members that read “Will mow lawn for weed and beer” and “I don’t cut grass I smoke it.”
“Mexico is plagued by a drug war,” Arzia said.
She continued and said that there have been at least 50,000 deaths, and that many people have family members who have died because of this war.
Ariza said that she met with officials associated with Chi Omega and invited them to come and learn about the Mexican culture but has heard nothing from them so far.
Ramon Barunda, program coordinator at the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, said that the photo is just a part of the bigger issue of racial ignorance at the university. He said nothing will speak louder or more effectively than education.
“This is an opportunity for us all to have a hand in educating the community as a whole,” said Barunda.
Ryan Brown, president of the Penn State Student Black Caucus, said that every 10-13 years it’s seen that something like this incident happens at the university. He mentioned the incidents of black face costumes during Halloween and how he and his organization brought the issue up to administrators, and that the same must be done for this issue.
He said that with these racially insensitive events, the administration “has its hands tied due to the First Amendment” and these issues get “held under the rug.”
Ariza then mentioned that the First Amendment doesn’t protect these displays if they disrupt the student body. Later on in the meeting, former president of MASA Everardo Tapia asked the audience if they felt disrupted, to which many replied “yes.”
Spanish Department Associate Professor John Ochoa spoke up at the meeting and encouraged everyone to do something about “this act of ignorance.” He told the audience to take Latino studies classes and encourage others to do so as well since education is the ways to combat ignorance.
Toward the end of the meeting while audience members were discussing forms of education possible to implement, many people voiced that making Sociology 119 a requirement for all students would be a good means of race education.
Ariza said that what they want to do is make a change for the future, so incidents like this won’t happen again to other groups. She said that a simple discipline, like the suspension of Chi Omega, will not fix the problem, and like many sentiments, education is means of change.
At the conclusion of the meeting, which marked the beginning of the UPUA meeting, Brown said that he and who ever else would like to join him were welcome to come.