A Baylor University fraternity hosted a racist “Mexican-themed” party on Saturday night, prompting a Sunday afternoon school statement condemning the event and a vociferous student protest.
The Monday protest drew hundreds of students to the center of campus, where calls were made to Baylor administrators and regents to address racism on campus and to sanction the fraternity, which was suspended by its national chapter and the university pending a formal inquiry.
Students at the Saturday party hosted by Baylor’s Kappa Sigma chapter wore sombreros and serapes, according to images circulating on Twitter.
Others dressed as construction workers and wore brown faces, according to student reports, and attendees chanted, “Build that wall,” referencing a campaign promise from President Donald Trump to build a wall along the United States-Mexico border.
A Baylor spokesman said the university has no direct evidence of students wearing brown faces, though it would investigate that detail if it arose.
In the Sunday statement, Vice President for Student Life Kevin Jackson called the party “deeply concerning and does not in any way reflect Baylor’s institutional values.”
The university is investigating the incident, Jackson said. Under Baylor’s Division of Student Life, the Bias Motivated Incident Support Team investigates incidents involving race, nationality, religion, gender and age, according to the website.
“Baylor is committed to a Christian mission that actively supports a caring and diverse campus community, and we do not tolerate racism of any kind on our campus,” Jackson said. “When any incident that does not align with our faith and mission is brought to our attention, it is thoroughly investigated by the University, and appropriate action is taken.”
Damian Moncada, a Baylor student and president of the Hispanic Student Association, said the university must be more intentional about dealing with issues of diversity and inclusion.
“We are fighting for a cause,” Moncada said. “A lot of you may not understand what we’re feeling. You may think that you have celebrated our culture. But I ask you that, if you wanted to celebrate our culture, you would have invited us to that party.”
“There seems to be a disconnect between Baylor culture and student culture, and it needs to be fixed now. It’s not a problem about political party. It does not have to do with being a liberal or conservative, it’s about being respectful of one another,” he said.
Students held signs reading, “My culture is not your costume,” “Ignorance is not an excuse for racism,” and “Somos unidos,” — meaning “We are united.”
Kristen Williams, a Baylor sophomore and incoming president of Baylor’s NAACP chapter, said she was not surprised when she heard about the party. Mandatory cultural competency training and more discussion about what constitutes racism would be good steps forward, she said.
“A lot of people there, I bet, had friends who are minority friends,” Williams said. “And if they were truly their friend, they wouldn’t have put on the party. They could have asked them, ‘I don’t know if this is offensive or not, and I just want to make sure before we throw this huge party.’ ”
Organizers of the protest made eight “asks” of Baylor administrators, including implementation of mandatory training, a sanction of Kappa Sigma, a formal apology from both the fraternity and the university and the creation of a multi-cultural cabinet through student government.
Some minority students told stories of racism they have experienced on campus, including one who said she was berated by a fellow student for speaking Spanish at a football game.
The national chapter of Kappa Sigma suspended the Baylor chapter’s operations while officials conduct an investigation in cooperation of the university, according to a statement.
“The allegations are inconsistent with the values of Kappa Sigma and, upon completion of the investigation, the Fraternity will address the findings in an appropriate manner,” the statement said.
Also present on Monday was Natasha Nkhama, a student who reported days after Trump’s election that she was pushed on campus and called the n-word. Several hundred people walked Nkhama across campus the next day.
“I’m just tired. I don’t want to do this anymore,” Nkhama said. “I don’t want us to have to keep walking every time something like this happens. And as tired as you are of hearing about racism, we’re tired of experiencing it.”