Thursday, September 20, 2018

Fraternity Holds Charity Fundraiser, Gets Accused Of "Cultural Appropriation"


Authored by Grace Gottschling via Campus Reform,

A Washington State University fraternity was accused of culturally appropriating the Asian-American Pacific Islander community after the group wore grass skirts for charity.

The WSU Phi Gamma Delta fraternity (FIJI) held an event Monday to raise money for an unknown charity cause. During the event, they wore grass skirts to “serenade” several sororities on campus, according to a statement released by the Interfraternity Council (IFC), an organization which oversees Greek life at WSU.

“Their actions represent clear examples of cultural appropriation which does not align with the values of the Interfraternity Community, or Washington State University,” the statement, released Tuesday, read.

“The Interfraternity Council condemns these and all acts of cultural appropriation regardless of the intention behind them.”

It is unclear if complaints were filed against FIJI by students or if WSU administration will punish the organization. However, the IFC has taken responsibility for the incident and is disciplining the fraternity. 

A video of the incident can be found here.

I’m going to bed tonight exhausted, angry and tired. Tired of this. Tired of the work our communities have to do to fight this. Tired of students we have to sit next to everyday thinking this is ok. Tired of the lack of action on the part of WSU administration. Tired of it all.

— Harald Hyllseth (@HHyllseth) September 18, 2018

FIJI members have agreed to apologize to “those harmed,” receive education on cultural appropriation and cultural competency, as well as “participate in cross-community forums” with groups affected by the incident. The fraternity has also been called to go before the WSU Greek Standards Board, according to the IFC.

FIJI also released a statement Tuesday, apologizing for the incident. 

“We understand that our behavior was inappropriate and culturally insensitive,” the apology stated.

“We are committed to creating a more understanding culture through education on racial, ethnic, and cultural sensitivity and appreciation.”

“Our hope is that, through this process and education, that our chapter will become more aware about our community, that this behavior does not happen again,” FIJI added. “We also commit to working with leaders of the multicultural community and residential Greek community to ensure these incidents are prevented in the future.”

“The punishment of the FIJI fraternity for their islander philanthropy represents the growing target on the back of fraternities all over campus,” a WSU student, who is a member of a different campus fraternity, told Campus Reform on the condition of anonymity. 

“If the fraternity members were poorly representing the Pacific Island culture by acting inappropriately, then an argument could be made for action, however they were doing nothing more than raising money for a charitable cause, and wearing grass skirts,” the student added.

“I believe very few people were offended by this act, and if the IFC wants to take action on a cause like this, it should be expected that they also punish the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority for their "Rock the Casa" philanthropy, where they serve Mexican food for a charitable cause."

IFC, FIJI, and WSU administration did not respond to Campus Reform’s requests for comment.