The quick nature of sending a text message markets a party in a way that is almost impossible to expunge, Cross Cultural Centers coordinators said.
Arizona State University’s Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity hosted a Martin Luther King-themed party this past weekend, where students dressed up in racially offensive “black” clothing — mocking both the holiday and the ethnic group.
Erin Echols, the assistant director of Cal Poly’s Cross Cultural Centers, attributed the prevalence of racially-charged parties to social media and its instantaneous nature.
“If an organization puts on a party and it’s mildly offensive, a lot of people might say, ‘Hey, that looks like a lot of fun,’ and do it on their campus,” Echols said. “So it continues those ideas and then it takes on. The ideas aren’t just coming out of thin air.”
Que Dang, assistant coordinator of the MultiCultural Center, agreed. She also noted there have been several parties like this in the past, but the recent ones are getting national attention because of how they are publicized.
“You can just readily access (information about parties) on the internet,” Dang said. It’s now at your fingertips — word can get spread in two minutes to 10 different groups or houses or cliques.”
Echols referenced the website TotalFratMove.com , which posts photos and anecdotes involving greek life (mostly relating to sex, alcohol and parties) throughout the country.
“It’s the exact opposite of what you would want to promote about greek life,” Echols said.
She said social media has an impact in creating a visual image that cannot be erased.
“Thanks to social media, we are seeing more of what is happening at parties than in the past, but the offensive party themes aren’t likely something that are new on college campuses,” Echols said. “However, they receive press just based on the visual impact, which makes a big difference.”
She added if the unofficially-themed “Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos” party hosted by a Cal Poly fraternity in November had images connected to it, the incident would have received even more press.
Echols and Dang both acknowledged these kinds of parties aren’t new — incidents like this go back for years, and there is a clear connection between college life and these parties, which is creating a much larger issue.
They noted, however, the pervasiveness and readily available nature of communication that exists now both hurts and helps in making a change. The quick nature of sending a text message markets a party in a way almost impossible to expunge. But Dang also said more people are calling these parties out online, and students and community members are more politically conscious because of their prevalence.
Echols said she sees the difficulty in making the campus a welcoming climate for all students — especially those who are underrepresented — but has faith the university is heading in the right direction. According to Echols, the efforts toward a diverse community are completely supported, especially since President Jeffrey Armstrong became university president in 2011.
“I just hope that we create a sense of community where you wouldn’t want something like that to happen on your campus or be connected to your campus,” Echols said.