Earlier this month, my chapter at UCLA had a party that we planned as a normal, fun college social event. But two days later, our chapter was the number one trending topic on Facebook. Our party made national headlines by the end of the week and our Instagram pictures were blogged and shared across the country. The publicity wasn’t good, and much of it was deserved. We didn’t stop to think about how our theme could offend our campus peers and leave some feeling hurt and made fun of.
We chose our theme with the intention of celebrating pop culture, and we didn’t mean to offend or hurt anyone. That being said, we did. And, we’ve learned a lot as a result. Here are a few of the biggest lessons learned that can help your chapter avoid making the same mistake. It should also result in a more inclusive chapter.
The theme of our party appropriated a culture that wasn’t our own. Cultural appropriation is insensitive and offensive. Although appropriation is a complicated issue that often occurs without malicious intent, it does not live up to the values that have made Sigma Phi Epsilon a leader on college campuses across the nation.
After a temporary probation, hours of meetings and a campus-wide protest, my chapter and I have learned an important lesson about cultural sensitivity and the consequences our actions can have in the community we are part of.
As Halloween approaches, I encourage my SigEp brothers across the nation to learn from our mistake. Talk to members of your community and utilize resources offered by the national Fraternity. Halloween is full of opportunities for fun themes and entertaining costumes, but it is also a time where people with good intentions can ultimately end up hurting their communities.
This Halloween, let’s uphold the values of our Fraternity and think before we act. Always wearing your letters means considering how your actions affect others around you. So let’s make wise decisions when it comes to planning for events and make sure that we’re wearing our letters before we pick a costume.