Forum discusses race incidents

by Nicole Tsong | 11/9/98 6:00am

A group of 80 students gathered at Cutter-Shabazz Hall Saturday night to discuss a series of race-related incidents, the most recent involving a Greek party which was advertised as having a "ghetto" theme.

The theme-party incident, which followed a number of race-related incidents this fall, involved a semi-formal dance co-sponsored by Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Xi Delta sorority, which was advertised as a "ghetto" party, where students were encouraged to dress "ghetto."

The meeting also responded to incidents including sales of a "Yale Sucks" Homecoming t-shirt, which depicted a bulldog performing oral sex on a Native American, as well as an incident involving Native Americans at Dartmouth students marching to protest Columbus Day.

Students said the discussion on Saturday provided a chance for students concerned about the recent events to voice concerns.

"It was important to have a forum to express feelings about things that had been going on," said Nancy Bloomfield '99, a participant in the discussion.

But the discussion did not dwell on the past events, she said, and instead moved forward to the next steps for planning a course of action, including a forum on Thursday to discuss "What is Ghetto?"

According to Chris Nybo '99, another student who joined the talk, he went to the discussion because the "ghetto"-themed party was a breaking point.

"I'm not a very activist person," he said, "For me to get involved in something like this, it's really indicative that I've reached my threshold; this is all I could take."

Representatives of Chi Gam were not invited to the discussion, although they did make an effort to attend the gathering and apologize for its theme, according to Andrew Cohen '99, Chi Gam's president.

A number of officers of the house attempted to join the discussion in an effort to help "rectify the situation," Cohen said

"Someone who was running it found out we were planning on coming and making a statement, and that's when we were told we could come and make a statement, but then we would have to leave," Cohen said.

But students "told us they were going to meet and then get in contact with us," he added. "So we're waiting."

"If we had known our expressed theme of hip-hop gangsta rap would offend anyone, we certainly wouldn't have used it," Cohen said. "The party wasn't a 'ghetto' party."

Through events such as the forum on Thursday, Nybo said he hopes the community will come together to listen to the incidents and act "as a community to realize our problems."

Nybo said the theme party showed there is an ignorance on campus, and that ignorance needs to be addressed.

The theme of the party "is not just an issue hurting people from ghettos," Nybo said. "This hurts a lot of people on campus."

Kesner Bienvenu '99, who also attended the meeting, said, "our goal is to make long-term changes."

Representatives of Alpha Xi were unavailable for comment, but the house's executive board released a statement which apologized for the actions of the house:

"We take full responsibility for our actions and are willing to rectify the situation in any way we can. Most importantly, we also realize that the fact that this sort of theme is considered acceptable by many people on this campus is a problem, and we would like to work with the Dartmouth community so that ignorance can no longer be an excuse."