As a Latina, senior Megan Miner knows what discrimination looks like. So when pictures of nine Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike) members dressed as Latino gangsters for Halloween — with the caption “Your culture IS my costume #CholoGang” — hit Instagram, she was furious.
“I am physically angry,” Miner said at a joint meeting between the Latino and Black Student Unions on Nov. 7.
The student unions met to discuss what they wanted to see the University’s administration do beyond the email President Rodney Rogers sent out on Nov. 6 addressing the incident. Like Miner, many students expressed their frustration and hurt in the LSU/BSU meeting, held just hours after Pike posted a statement on Twitter.
A student read the statement aloud, which apologized to “all organizations on campus as well as any individuals who were offended” by the “offensive, arrogant, and insensitive” costumes.
The reading of the statement prompted a student to blurt out, “Well, why aren’t they (Pike) here?”
Across the room, four Pike members — President Troy Henricksen, External Vice President Shawn Ragland, senior Jon Dorcely and senior Kendall Brodie — raised their hands while several members of the student unions gasped at the uninvited fraternity brothers. LSU President Sadi Troche tried to reign in the murmuring crowd as Henricksen leaned forward in his chair to speak.
“I want to formally apologize for the actions taken by some of my members during Halloween. I just want you to know that’s no way that our chapter is supposed to be portrayed. Those members do not represent our pillars that most of the members of our chapter do represent every single day,” he said.
He said the fraternity is working with the University to investigate while also disciplining the nine members involved internally. Those members are suspended until further notice and are “frozen, not with Pike or affiliated with us right now,” Henricksen said.
His words caused some to voice their thanks, while others in attendance went on to accuse the Pike members of not doing enough, citing past offenses from the fraternity as reason to not trust this apology.
Miner did not vocalize her gratitude for the Pikes being there. Instead, she shared her own experience with discrimination, especially in the current political climate.
“That is my culture, and I have seen it be appropriated in so many ways. I’m mad about the way people are talking about Latinos in this country. They treat us like we ain’t people, but we are people,” Miner said, on the verge of tears and visibly shaking. “So, yeah, I’m furious, and I’m sure you can hear it in my voice.”
As she spoke, those in attendance clapped, snapped and yelled out their support. They shouted, “Go ahead!” and nodded in agreement while Miner expressed the pain she was feeling from this bias incident and its reflection of the national rhetoric directed toward Latinos.
“I think there needs to be punishment. I don’t care if the people in those pictures are expelled; I don’t care if that ruins their future,” she said, beating her hand against her chest between words. “I’m tired of the way this country’s talking about my people, how they call us all illegals, how I’ve been told to go back to Mexico so many f****** times when I was born here! Where they treat my mom like she’s stupid because she’s brown.”
Several people in the room were in tears when Miner finished, and the Pike members broke the silence to ask if they should leave. Coordinator for Diversity and Retention Initiatives and LSU Adviser Ana Brown gave them the choice.
The fraternity brothers chose to stay to respond to questions, one of which was why they chose to join Pike.
Dorcely said, as a black man, he joined Pike because they accepted him, something he hadn’t experienced much before college. He was born to Haitian parents in a “black and Hispanic community” in Maryland, and his best friend growing up was from the Dominican Republic, he said. When he moved to Michigan, he attended a predominately white school where he felt he didn’t fit in with the white students because he was too black, but he also felt excluded by black students because he “talked too white,” he said.
Pike members were “guys I wanted to be around,” he said.
“I never saw any instance where I’d seen where they thought that they were better than certain cultures or they thought that certain cultures were a joke. This whole situation to happen, it’s embarrassing. For the first time, I feel embarrassed wearing my letters on campus because I know when people see my letters they go, ‘Well, he’s in Pike, and they’re that racist fraternity,’” he said.
As a final statement from Pike, Dorcely shared how mad he was at the individuals who dressed that way for Halloween.
Once the Pike members left the meeting, the student unions continued their discussion about what they want to see happen moving forward. Undergraduate Student Government Vice President Marcus Goolsby was also in attendance and said he would address the issue with members of administration.
Some of the ideas discussed and planned to be presented to Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas Gibson and Title IX Coordinator Jennifer McCary include:
A pause on alumni donations to the fraternity while the investigation is going on.
Increased cultural sensitivity training for Greek organizations.
Increased community service in primarily Latino communities.
“We are not going to let this fall on the wayside, and we are not going to let it fall in the cracks because you got to be messed up if I’m not going to be in the Office of the Dean of Students and Student Affairs letting (Thomas) Gibson, Jennifer (McCary) … all of them know what’s up. Because I’m not going to tolerate it no more,” Troche said.