Posted on February 13, 2014

Penn State Sorority Is Shut Down over Photo Which Showed Members Mocking Mexicans with Fancy Dress and Offensive Signs

Damien Gayle, Daily Mail (London), February 13, 2014

A college sorority has been shut down after an photo was circulated showing members dressed in an offensive parody of Mexicans.

It showed the sisters of Chi Omega at Penn State wearing sombreros, ponchos and fake moustaches while holding up signs saying ‘will mow lawn for weed + beer’ and ‘I don’t cut grass I smoke it’.

The picture — apparently taken around Halloween 2012 — came to light in December that year and sparked an immediate backlash from fellow students at the publicly funded university.

On Tuesday Chi Omega’s national organisation finally shut down its Penn State chapter, having placed it on probation when the scandal broke 14 months ago.

Sorority officials said the governing council had worked with the local chapter to keep it open but many members ‘did not adhere to the mandated requirements.’

Chi Omega national president Letitia Fulkerson said the chapter was closed because ‘concerns continue to persist.’

The organisation’s National Headquarters released a statement saying that members of its Penn State chapter, known as Nu Gamma, had ‘participated in activities that are not congruent with Chi Omega’s values and purposes.’

‘Chi Omega alumnae volunteers and Executive Headquarters staff members have worked closely with the chapter members to provide the highest level of support in order to move the chapter forward,’ the statement said.

‘However, many members did not adhere to the mandated requirements.’

The photo, which quickly spread across the internet after it found its way onto Tumblr, caused considerable outrage with the school’s Latino community.

Cesar Sanchez Lopez, vice president of Penn State’s Mexican American Student Association, said at the time the scandal first broke that the stereotypes were offensive and ‘untrue.’

Other students tacked up posters on the door of Penn State’s Fraternity and Sorority Life offices with the photo captioned with ‘Racial insensitivity — brought to you by Chi Omega’ and ‘We are racist… Chi Omega.’

The U.S. is home to the second largest community of Mexicans in the world, after Mexico itself, with more than one in 10 citizens having full or partial Mexican ancestry.

Speaking of the decision to shut down Nu Gamma, Meaghan DeMallie, president of Penn State’s Panhellenic Association, told that it was not directly because of the scandal, but also what happened after.

‘I think there’s been a disconnect between what the national headquarters’ policies are and what the culture at Penn State is,’ she said.

‘I don’t think [the photo] is the direct reason, it’s more what’s happened since then, and they may not have grown as much as the national organization wanted.’

Ms Fulkerson told ‘The decision to close a chapter is the most difficult decision to Governing Council faces.

‘The national organization has worked closely with this chapter on both education and operational directives, particularly regarding risk management and bystander behavior.

‘Unfortunately, these concerns continue to persist, and the Governing Council must close Nu Gamma Chapter for the safety of our members.’

Chi Omega was founded in 1895 at the University of Arkansas. It is the largest women’s fraternal organization in the world with over 320,000 members and 174 collegiate chapters.