The event was hosted by the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority, both predominantly white. Guests reportedly arrived to the party with charcoal smeared faces, plumped lips, baggy clothes, padded bottoms, or as Kardashians.
Photographs of the party and costumes surfaced on social media, prompting a resurgence of the hashtag #BlackBruinsMatter. The Afrikan Student Union also held a rally today on campus to prompt a formal administrative response, and are urging students to wear black in protest.
Alicia Frison, a member of the executive board of the ASU, says that the actions of the Greek organizations reflect the longstanding sentiments towards black students on UCLA’s campus. In fact, she says she’s been expecting something like this.
“[The party] is only uncovering the issues and policies of administration that allow these types of attitudes toward black students, and we’re demanding action,” she says.
“It’s really jolting for freshman students. In their second week here. They’re seeing these images of what it’s like to be black on this campus. It reinforces self-doubt as a student, and as a human being, that you don’t even have dignity in a place where you were picked out to be the cream of the crop.”
UCLA formally released a statement regarding the party.
“We remind students that while they are free to celebrate in ways that draw on popular culture, their specific choices can cause harm and pain to fellow members of their community. Put simply: Just because you can do something, does not mean you should,” a university spokesman wrote.
UCLA has a longstanding history of Greek organizations hosting parties with racially charged overtones. An alumni recalled an “Around The World” party in 2006 where attendees again sported blackface and taped eyes, as well as a “South of the Border” event where guests were invited to climb a chain link fence, wade through water, and carry toy babies stuffed with fake drugs.
“Sometimes I appreciate these things for all the students that doubt that we live in these times. It’s during events like these that you see how conservative our administration really is. I’m curious to see who will come out in support of our students,” says a UCLA staff member, who wished to remain anonymous. “There is a harsh racial climate, and the white faculty does not treat black students with the same warmth. People look at black students here as a liability. They are vocal, and they are organized. Anyone that tries to attach themselves comes under fire.”
Presidents of both fraternities and the director of fraternity and sorority relations at UCLA could not be reached for comment. Sigma Phi Epsilon’s national office stated that the UCLA chapter has temporarily suspended activities as it investigates the incident. UCLA also states that Alpha Phi’s activities have also been suspended.
“Building diverse and inclusive communities is core to our identity as an organization, and we have zero tolerance for racist behavior,” the organization’s spokesman, Beaux Carriere, said in a statement. “Sigma Phi Epsilon will continue to work with the university and UCLA community to investigate these claims and hold students accountable for any inappropriate behavior.”
The ASU will continue to meet throughout the week, and present the administration with a formal list of demands later this week.