Sexism and racism were the topics of discussion during a forum Friday at a northern California university after a fraternity and sorority hosted a theme party last week deemed offensive to women and Native Americans.
Officials at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo told NBC News that they were investigating an off-campus party allegedly called, "Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos."
At the party, men reportedly dressed up in colonial-era costumes and women wore scantily clad Native American-themed attire.
"Cal Poly is currently reviewing an off-campus party that occurred on Nov. 16 that may have included culturally insensitive, sexist, and offensive behavior," university spokesman Matt Lazier wrote in an email. "While the gathering was held off campus, the university takes diversity and inclusivity very seriously."
In a campus-wide email, university President Jeffrey D. Armstrong denounced the party and said university officials "will respond to any violations of the Standards for Student Conduct" following an investigation.
"Let us be clear, events like these have no place in the Cal Poly community and are not reflective of the principles of The Mustang Way," he wrote. "Obviously, this was not a university-sponsored event."
A Cal Poly student and fraternity member named Daniel, who declined to provide his last name, told the San Luis Obispo Tribune that he didn't think the party "was meant to be racist."
“It’s unfair,” he said. “We are taught that Thanksgiving is Pilgrims and Indians.”
Tristin Moone, a citizen of the Diné (Navajo) Nation who is a student of Native American Studies at Columbia University in New York, told NBC News that she's concerned by the psychology of those who would think this type of party is acceptable.
"I think the mentality that went into the creation of this party, the mentality that thought this was OK, is ubiquitous in America," she said.
Moone, who was born and raised on the Diné reservation in northeast Arizona and northwest New Mexico, said she's concerned for the indigenous students who may attend Cal Poly and whether their peers view them as contemporary individuals.
"I’m worried about indigenous students in that institution not having an ally or advocate who can help mentor them, and guide students for a better understanding of Native peoples around the world," she said.
Lazier wrote that Friday's forum was a part of several "ongoing efforts to promote a culture of support, diversity, inclusivity and community engagement" at Cal Poly.
Moone said she believes such efforts should also include hearing and learning from the Native American community and allowing them to teach their own history.
"I think (parties) like these are very reflective of how the dominant narrative is supported and nurtured throughout American schools and universities, and how it stifles and hinders and silences the Native American narrative," she said.
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First published November 22 2013, 5:02 PM