By Eva Moravec
AUSTIN — An investigation into a University of Texas fraternity whose portrayal of Hispanics at a party offended students has been completed and no sanctions are forthcoming, a university official said Thursday.
Phi Gamma Delta did not violate any school rules during the Feb. 7 party at their house just north of campus, Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly said.
More than 20 complaints were filed with the university’s Campus Climate Response Team, and records released to The Associated Press show the team received a complaint about “stereotypical Mexican clothing” that fraternity members wore at a similar party in January 2014. The fraternity president said the party was intended to have a Western theme.
Conversations with fraternity leadership “about their freedom of expression rights” and “where the line is when it becomes offensive or hurtful” are ongoing, Reagins-Lilly said in an interview Thursday.
“Our work is not done,” she said. “It is disappointing, and the university takes all of these matters very seriously.”
Last year, members of the fraternity also known as Texas Fiji wore sombreros, ponchos and mariachi outfits to the party, according to the so-called “bias complaint.”
Reagins-Lilly said at the time, the university met with fraternity leadership and notified their national office. But, she said, “leadership changes every year.”
This month, complaints were filed about the party’s “culture, costumes and construction-worker scenario,” according to Erica Saenz, assistant vice president of the university’s division of diversity and community engagement.
“The biggest responsibility that we have is to respond to every report,” Saenz said.
After the team received numerous complaints about the Texas Fiji party this year, Reagins-Lilly’s office also opened an investigation. Had they found that the fraternity violated school rules, it could have faced sanctions.
As news of the party spread, fraternity president Andrew Campbell apologized to his fellow students “for any offensive behavior or attire.” He added that the fraternity had learned an important lesson.
“There were elements and dress that were insensitive and inappropriate,” Campbell wrote in an email. “We understand why people were and are offended.” He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The multi-agency team then determines the best way to respond to the complaints. At the end of the school year, their work is compiled and released in an annual summary. During the 2013-2014 school year, the Texas Fiji complaint was one of 670 the office received. Most of the complaints were regarding events held by the Young Conservatives of Texas.