Senators condemn UC Irvine fraternity’s blackface video

Wesley Ng/HIGHLANDER
Wesley Ng/HIGHLANDER

Barely meeting quorum with a total attendance of eight senators—the other half of the senate was partially excused to attend to other club obligations—ASUCR held its fifth meeting of the quarter on May 1. Speakers included Students for Justice in Palestine President Amal Ali, who denounced a UCI fraternity for recording a video with a member wearing blackface, while other notable reports were delivered by Vice President of External Affairs Lazaro Cardenas and Controller Crystal Kim.

Issuing a 10-minute presentation during the public forum period, Cardenas touched on his recent initiatives to expand technology usage on campus.

“[At the help desk] they’ve had 21,849 laptops [checked out] since September of last year,” Cardenas noted.  Students have checked out laptops 220 times a day in locations such as Latitude 55 and the Student Help Desk, and with such high web traffic, he hopes to expand Internet bandwidth in the future. “As student laptop use increases dramatically, so is the need for better wireless access,” he said.

Cardenas stated that nearly 7,000 students have been using iLearn mobile, which is currently available on Android, iOS and Blackberry platforms.

Touching upon another project, Cardenas said, “Chancellor White fronted a lot of money last year [in] regards to bringing back SIF, the Student Initiatives Fund,” he said of the multi-million dollar project.

“Basically, we’ll make classes.edu and GROWL all live and it’ll also be able to create and report within the year, the classes enrolled in the most,” which he says is important towards improving the decades-old program.

Vice President of Finance Crystal Kim reported, “So this year, our finance committee met with 154 clubs regarding allocations. We allocated over $153,643 as of yesterday and we funded over 22 [organizations] with grants. Last year, they only met with 95 clubs.” She aims to reduce restrictions on clubs to spend on equipment and conferences, while continuing a quarterly student fee mass email report.

Later in the meeting, speaker Amali Ali voiced her concerns about the discriminatory behavior of other UCs, which she feared would spread to Greek organizations at UCR.

“There was a fraternity, Lambda Theta Delta, that has been using some racist acts in their pledge videos in both this fall and last fall, using methods of blackface,” she said. “I just want to make sure this does not become an issue here, because of the fact that the administration there has made no statement.”

The UC Irvine fraternity Lambda Theta Delta was seen in a video set to Justin Timberlake’s song “Suit and Tie,” which features a person wearing blackface to represent the American rapper Jay-Z in the collaboration. UCI’s Black Student Union condemned the act, stating that this was not the first case of racism on campus. The union referred to another video, where a fraternity member wore blackface during a Halloween party back in 2010 as part of a recruitment video. On May 1, the fraternity suspended holding all campus events until fall of 2014.

In reaction to the incident, Senator Megan Crail addressed that the senate does not have the ability to punish other campuses, yet reiterated the senate previously passed a resolution against racial acts on campus. “I believe last quarter we passed a racist rager resolution where we don’t stand by any sort of [discriminatory] parties … since it’s been happening across the country.”

Yet, Ali still encouraged the senators to voice their support on the issue by personally contacting the UC Irvine administration.

Senator Cortni Thomas responded, “Regarding what she said about contacting … UCI, just as a student that has been interested in these recent actions … African Student [Programs] here on campus is actually sending letters of support.”

Senator Kevin Jo referenced a similar incident during a CSU San Marcos party where sorority girls of Alpha Chi Omega dressed up as Latina gang members. The Alpha Chi Omega sister chapter at Pennsylvania State University was also under hot water for holding a “Mexican-themed” Halloween party last year. “Even if we pass a resolution, I’m just saying that it’s a good thing that everyone’s aware because I thought that everyone was aware of the Lambda Delta issue,” said Jo.

To clarify Ali’s statement, Cardenas added, “It’s not a Greek issue. It’s a UC issue. It’s a student issue. It’s a state issue. Racism is still very prevalent in this state and this world. So to say this is a Greek issue—this is not true. That’s not the case.” He referenced other incidences of racial insensitivity, such as the Compton Cookout held by a UC San Diego fraternity and the nooses hung at a library in UC Davis.

“We should all actively participate in these things as students in solidarity with other folks who are suffering,” Cardenas said.

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