WESTWOOD (CBSLA.com) — A fraternity and sorority at the University of California Los Angeles are under investigation for allegedly holding a “Kanye West-ern”-themed party where attendees came dressed in padded bottoms, baggy clothes and other “racially insensitive” outfits, according to campus officials and The Daily Bruin.
The party was allegedly hosted by the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority on Tuesday night, The Daily Bruin reported. The newspaper posted photos from students who allegedly went to the event. One shows a group of girls with their faces covered in charcoal or soot, with the caption: “‘I rescind all prior statements I made. I am sayin’ she a gold digger.’ – Kanye West (Oct. 6, 2015)”
Another Instagram photo posted on The Daily Bruin site shows a group of two women and a man, with the woman in the middle with what appears to be a drawn-on black mustache and beard – much like Kanye West’s facial hair – and wearing a white tank top, a red bandanna and grey, baggy sweatpants. The caption reads, “The Kanye to my West #raid #kanyewestern” and is tagged at “UCLA Sigma Phi Epsilon.”
The allegations have several UCLA student groups calling on the university to take action, the student newspaper reported.
CBSLA has reached out to UCLA, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Phi for comment. UCLA and the fraternity’s national chapter say they’re investigating the reports and are not handling the issue lightly. Alpha Phi has not yet responded.
UCLA released the following statement:
“We are concerned about these allegations and earnestly working to gather information about what occurred, talking to all those involved. While we do not yet have all the facts, the alleged behavior is inconsistent with good judgment as well as our principles of community. We remind students that while they are free to celebrate in ways that draw on popular culture, their specific choices can cause harm and pain to fellow members of their community. Put simply: Just because you can do something does not mean you should.”
The national office of Sigma Phi Epsilon issued the following statement to CBSLA:
“The national office of Sigma Phi Epsilon is investigating claims that its UCLA chapter hosted an inappropriately themed social event with Alpha Phi Sorority. The Fraternity is aware of images of female guests dressed in offensive and racially insensitive outfits. We have asked our UCLA chapter to temporarily suspend activities and work with our office and university staff to determine the facts of the event and the appropriate path forward.
“Building diverse and inclusive communities is core to our identity as an organization, and we have zero tolerance for racist behavior. Sigma Phi Epsilon will continue to work with the university and UCLA community to investigate these claims and hold students accountable for any inappropriate behavior.”
The Afrikan Student Union at UCLA announced on Facebook they’d be holding a protest over the “current racial incident” near the campus’ iconic Bruin Bear statue.
CBS2’s Jeff Nguyen said many students protested Thursday, some chanting “Black Bruins Matter.”
Afrikan Student Union chairperson Janay Williams says this isn’t about the mocking of Kardashian or West or even the blackface.
“We want people to understand it’s not necessarily about the face paint,” she said “t’s about making a mockery, a joke of black culture.”
Over at Alpha Phi — one woman, who says she’s the house facility director, said the entire thing was much ado about nothing.
“The whole situation is idiocy. You’re blowing it out of proportion,” she said, “Goodbye.”
USC Law Professor Jody Armour says a lot of discrimination isn’t intentional but it’s harmful just the same.
“I think there’s little doubt a lot of young folks aren’t aware of the history of the black face and minstrelism and they need to be educated. These are teachable moments,” Armour said.