A Pennsylvania State University sorority is under investigation and has issued an apology for a photo showing its members dressed in Mexican-themed attire and holding a pair of signs deemed insensitive.
“Will mow lawn for weed and beer,” and, “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it,” read the two signs displayed in a group photo taken at a recent party by the sisters of Chi Omega sorority.
The photo was initially circulated on blogging site Tumblr, where users continue to debate it.
Sorority chapter president Jessica Riccardi released an apology, telling campus newspaper The Daily Collegian, “Our chapter of Chi Omega sincerely apologizes for portraying inappropriate and untrue stereotypes. The picture in question does not support any of Chi Omega’s values or reflect what the organization aspires to be.”
The image has been condemned by campus Latino groups. “In terms of the Latino Caucus, the portrayal of sombreros, ponchos and mustaches are a huge over-simplification of what not only the Mexican but the Latino culture is like,” Ariel Coronel, president of the Penn State Latino Caucus, told the Collegian.
“It’s being culturally ignorant, and I really do hope that the sorority tries to become culturally aware so this type of incident doesn’t happen again and that people will realize that this is racially and culturally insensitive,” Coronel added.
Cesar Sanchez Lopez, vice president of the Penn State Mexican American Student Association, was critical of the photo’s references to drugs, telling independent college blog Onward State, “the insinuation about drug usage makes this image more offensive. Our country is plagued by a drug war that has led to the death of an estimated 50,000 people, which is nothing to be joked about.”
The Penn State University Park campus of 45,351 students is about 5 percent Hispanic-Latino and 70 percent white, according to fall 2012 enrollment statistics.
The Penn State Panhellenic Council is investigating the incident, and issued a statement expressing its disappointment with the sorority.
“The Penn State Panhellenic Council does not condone any form of derogatory behavior from any of our members,” it read. “Our Council and all its members strive to hold ourselves to a high standard and are disappointed by any failure to meet these expectations.”