Colonial party theme nixed

A controversial party titled “Colonizers and Colonized” was cancelled following complaints from students and meetings with Yale College deans.

Two international student organizations, the Yale Latin American Student Organization and Yale European Undergraduates, had organized the mixer for Friday night. Many students heard about the party through a Facebook event page, which prompted many, especially those affiliated with Yale’s Chicano organization, MEChA, to speak out against it.

The event page said “proper colonizer/colonized attire is strongly encouraged.”

Following the outcry from students and meetings with deans Thursday, the groups cancelled the mixer and each released a statement apologizing for the incident and stressing that they had no intentions to hurt anyone.

Rosalinda Garcia, the assistant dean of Yale College and director of La Casa Cultural who met with LASO leaders Thursday, said she was disturbed by the event.

“I was extremely surprised and upset when I heard about the event,” she said. “Incidents like this can be so hurtful and can truly damage the community.”

The YEU board issued a statement Thursday saying they intended the event to bring the two organizations together and that the title was chosen with “no bad intentions.” Members of LASO issued a similar statement expressing regret and said they “did not realize how charged the words of the title were.”

“As soon as we realized it offended people, we acted as quickly as possible to address that,” said YEU president Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein ’12.

LASO treasurer Ilan Szekely ’11 added Thursday that his organization never intended to upset people.

“I believe our campus has a political correctness fixation that forces people to be conscientious of race and gender differences every time they speak, which I think exacerbates tensions instead of ameliorating them,” he said.

Edgar Diaz ’11, however, who has served on the Yale and national boards of MEChA, said he was shocked when he found out about the event Wednesday night. He began spreading the word about the mixer to people on various panlists and contacting some of the cultural house deans. Diaz said he could not believe that Yale students, especially those affiliated with cultural organizations, did not consider the event inappropriate.

Diana Enriquez ’13 said she also found the theme of the party upsetting.

“I’m a Mexican of Spaniard descent. I don’t want to think about what my ancestors did to the country,” she said. “I think what they did was wrong, and I don’t want it to be glorified.”

Enriquez said colonization should not be the subject for humor since people — especially indigenous populations — are still living with the repercussions of colonization.

Garcia said LASO and YEU will hold a forum for students to discuss the issues that the incident has brought up. Diaz, however, said he doubts such a discussion would effectively prevent such events in the long term.

“Something like this happens every year, and we keep having discussions and forums about these issues, and we don’t seem to have institutional memory about these things,” he said.

Last year’s Freshman Screw theme, “Gone With the Wind,” also stirred controversy when members of the African-American community complained the book and film on which the event was based glorified the slave-owning culture of the American South before the Civil War. Members of the Freshman Class Council changed the dance’s theme in response to the controversy.

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