College
by Brandon Wenerd on December 4, 2012

Look, I say that as an alumnus. 

Not that it matters, but when your alma mater's been dragged through the proverbial public relations shiter, you have to wonder why anyone ever thought it would be a good idea to post a picture like this on social media. But such is the world we live in.

According to Onward State, Penn State's chapter of Chi Omega threw the Mexican fiesta-themed social around Halloween. There are the usual suspects that would raise red flags of racially insensitive on a college campus: ponchos, sombreros, and fake mustaches. But to take it just a little bit further, one girl is pictured holding a sign that reads “will mow lawn for weed & beer” and another that says “I don’t cut grass I smoke it.” Yes, kids, stereotyping an entire ethnicity as pot-smoking landscapers officially makes it a racist party. Onward State elaborates:

The connection between Chi Omega and the racist image was discovered when examining the names of the girls pictured. This proved to be easy as those featured in the image were tagged on Facebook. 

Just like the Duke lacrosse player who dressed up in full blackface for Halloween, everything about this wasn't a good idea. The theme-party was probably (key word) innocuous when it was conceived, but now the sorority is serious hot water. Why? Same old story: Someone posted a photo to Facebook. Disciplinary action will certainly take place, citing cultural ignorance, insensitivity, and general poor decision-making. The Vice President of Penn State's Mexican American Student Association, Cesar Sanchez Lopez, released a statement to Onward State about the party:

“The Mexican American Student Association is disappointed in the attire chosen by this sorority. It in no way represents our culture. Not only have they chosen to stereotype our culture with serapes and sombreros, but 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.”

 

But that's not all! Flyers like this popped up on campus in backlash, via OWS:

Sure, the Chi Omegas apologized, but that's sorta retroactive now. This story is already starting to go viral because, let's face it, Penn State is an easy target in the public eye these days. Alumni like myself are, understandable, embarrassed stupid stuff like this. Because it seems to reaffirm the negative image of Penn State in the national media that we Penn Staters want to think doesn't really exist. That sucks for all of us.

Look, I get it: People do dumb shit in college. Hell, we probably wouldn't even have an operational website if it wasn't for people doing dumb shit in college. All I'm trying to say is be careful.

It's easy, college students: When it comes to dressing in costume, don't be stupid. Err on the side of caution. Especially if you're in a Greek organization. There's a good chance your photo, snapped on a smartphone, will end up shared on Facebook, screencapped into Interweb eternity. Then it becomes a big deal, if just for a tiny window of time. It's not the end of the world, but there's little sense in having controversy as a bedfellow. Be smart out there.