Duke Students Hold Rally to Denounce Racism
Students, professors and administrators at Duke University held a rally against racism last month after a fraternity sponsored a party that Latino students say demeaned their heritage.
Fraternity members from Sigma Chi designed fliers that looked like expired green cards, on the chapter’s Web site and built the image of a drunk Mexican and built a mock border patrol checkpoint at the dorm’s door for the Sept. 13 party.
The party was held three days before Mexican Independence Day.
“Everything that I am — my family, customs, culture and language — was violated,” said Sandra Sanchez, who helped organize the demonstration at Duke Chapel. “The stereotypes of drunk Mexicans and border crossing was hurtful.
“Durham and the United States knows the importance of Latinos, so why doesn’t Duke?” Sanchez asked.
Several speakers told an audience of about 75 people that the party inflamed their long-held belief that Duke has ignored its Latino students — which make up about 7 percent of the student body — and faculty and staff.
Sigma Chi president Marc Mattioli said the fraternity was talking with leaders of the Latino community. Together, they will develop some sort of education program for fraternity members and Duke community, he said, declining to elaborate.
“(The party) was designed to be a lighthearted celebration of the Mexican tourism scene,” Mattioli wrote in the letters to the editor section of Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle.
“In no way was it intended to imply a political or social statement about Mexico, Mexican Americans, immigrants or immigration policy. Obviously, it did not come off as such.”
Mattioli, who said he is Latino himself, apologized and said the fraternity was not racist.
Some students criticized Duke’s Event Services, which approved the party in advance. They also demanded better recruitment and support for Latino students and faculty, and called for the development of a strong Latino studies program.
In response, Duke President Nan Keohane said officials would look at party registrations more closely now, but she cautioned against using “Big Brother” tactics to regulate campus life.
— Associated Press
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