Dear Occidental Community,
The recent attempt by members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity to host an off-campus party themed “End of the World Party: ISIS, Ebola & Malaysian Airlines” is an atrocious display of racism, anti-Blackness, and the dehumanization of people of color. These tragedies have impacted people of many racial and ethnic backgrounds. While the party made a mockery of the loss of human life generally, there is a persistent racialized undertone in this event that deeply harms people of color specifically. Costumes of victims of Ebola, the Malaysian Airlines crashes, or the terrorist organization ISIS perpetuate repulsive stereotypes of the predominantly black and brown victims and perpetrators of these tragedies. It is a disgusting lack of awareness to think that this is something that can be made light of. By parodying and sexualizing these deaths, the organizers and would-be attendees of this party are devaluing the lives of people of color on campus and on a global level. It is clear that Oxy still has a major problem with racism when students plan to host, to attend, or to accept this type of event.
Let’s move past ideas about Oxy being “PC” or “too sensitive about race” and realize racism and ignorance thrive on our campus and we must organize to combat it.
While Phi Kappa Psi issued an apology to the campus, the organization can and must do more to address the deeply problematic actions of two of its members. These individuals are representatives of their organization regardless of whether this party was organized officially as a Phi Psi event. CODE suggests that Phi Psi consider the following possible courses of action:
1. Work to change the culture and practices of your organization in order to challenge systemic racism;
2. Take disciplinary action against the members of your organization who have caused harm to the Occidental community; namely remove these individuals from the organization or accept that their actions and ideology continue to represent and reflect the organization as a whole;
3. Positively contribute to rectifying the horrific events this party sought to trivialize (We suggest fundraising for organizations working to eradicate Ebola as one possible action).
Our goal here is not to demonize Phi Psi, but rather to recognize that the issues that their members brought up are ones that face the Occidental community more broadly. We implore the College to take a stand on this issue. While the party has been canceled and an apology was forwarded to the student body this time,we have yet to see the institution address the underlying ideology and practices of the College that allow such dehumanization to go unchecked. Beyond devaluing the loss of life from Ebola, ISIS, and the Malaysian Airlines crashes, the racist actions in question have caused real harm to members of our student body who feel attacked and unsafe. We believe that the events of the last days exemplify with this College needs a Chief Diversity Office.
A Chief Diversity Office would provide a space to address institutional racism in both proactive and reactive ways. It would offer support to students in instances where they feel unsafe, attacked, or victimized and streamline the disciplinary process for bias incident reports. In addition, the office would play a critical role in changing the culture of Occidental in regard to race and diversity. It would further institutionalize our commitment to equity and excellence so that events like this “End of the World” party will no longer have a place in our community. Let us not strive to be mediocre, but excellent in our leadership on issues of diversity.
The Coalition at Occidental for Diversity and Equity