U apologizes for ‘fiesta’ event

A recent “cultural fiesta” on the St. Paul campus featured students and the school’s mascot dressed in ponchos and sombreros.

by Taylor Nachtigal

The University of Minnesota’s Office for Student Affairs apologized on Tuesday for a theme party it recently hosted on campus that some community members called inappropriate and offensive.

Students and the school’s Goldy Gopher mascot wore sombreros and ponchos at the “Galactic Fiesta” event in the St. Paul Student Center’s game room, which the University’s Student Unions and Activities office sponsored, according to an email sent to students, staff and faculty by Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young.

“They didn’t understand how aspects of that event might be offensive to others,” she said.

Brown Young said the Office for Student Affairs is committed to offering programming and resources for the campus community. She extended an apology to members of the school’s Chicano and Latino communities for the incident that took place last month.

“We may not get everything right at all times, but at an institution of higher education, we are committed to learn from our past experiences to improve our collective future,” Brown Young wrote in the email.

“We can do better. We must do better. … We will do better,” the email read.

Responses from many University community members prompted Brown Young to investigate the event.

Eden Torres, chair of the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies, said she heard quite a bit of concern about the event from students and faculty members.

Torres said the University talks about diversity often.

“But that doesn’t translate into an interest in or a need for education on these topics,” she said.

Individualized studies senior Susana Murillo said she was disappointed that the event took place despite the University’s efforts around Halloween to discourage cultural appropriation with costumes.

“I was just really surprised and appalled at what had happened at this event,” Murillo said.

Murillo said she plans to host a workshop with her sorority, Sigma Lambda Gamma, to address cultural appropriation in partnership with Sigma Lambda Beta, the La Raza Student Cultural Center and the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies.

Brown Young said the students involved in the incident will not face disciplinary action, but the school will take steps to train them in diversity and cultural competency.