The Penn State chapter of Chi Omega is facing punishments after a racially insensitive image of the sorority surfaced on social media late last week.
The photograph in question was supposedly taken at a Mexican fiesta themed social around Halloween. Members of the Chi Omega Nu Gamma chapter are pictured dressed in ponchos, sombreros, and fake mustaches. One girl is holding a sign that reads “will mow lawn for weed & beer” and another reads “I don’t cut grass I smoke it.”
The connection between Chi Omega and the racist image was discovered when examining the names of the girls pictured. This proved to be easy as those featured in the image were tagged on Facebook. One name, Nikki Chernick, shows up in the tags of the image. Her Twitter bio not only has the Chi Omega letters, ΧΩ, but the phrase “lyrivie” which also appears in the caption of the debated image.
Someone connected with Chernick on Twitter, tweeted out the same phrase, “lyrivie,” in the following tweet which matches the time frame of the alleged bigotry fiesta.
Though not featured in the racially insensitive image, Paige Gurski is pictured in the following Facebook picture doing the Chi Omega hand sign along side many of the names tagged in the offensive display of cultural ignorance.
Sources told us last night that Director of Greek Life, Dr. Roy Baker, Director of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, Carlos Wiley, and the leadership of Chi Omega met to discuss potential punishments for the sorority. A possible suspension has been rumored, but the Panhellenic Council would not confirm any punishment.
When asked about the incident, Assistant Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life, Susan LeGalley, refused to comment stating that her office “traditionally doesn’t talk with reporters.” E-mails sent to the president of Penn State’s Chi Omega chapter, Jessica Riccardi, have not received a response as of publishing time.
In light of the insensitivity displayed against Latin culture, Vice President of the Mexican American Student Association, Cesar Sanchez Lopez, had the following statement.
“The Mexican American Student Association is disappointed in the attire chosen by this sorority. It in no way represents our culture. Not only have they chosen to stereotype our culture with serapes and sombreros, but the insinuation about drug usage makes this image more offensive. Our country is plagued by a drug war that has led to the death of an estimated 50,000 people, which is nothing to be joked about.”
Other backlash that has been seen around campus are print-out flyers on bulletin boards and even on the HUB office of Fraternity and Sorority Life that flame the sorority for the offensive photograph.
For a university with recent accusations of bigotry, a rocky history of racial adversity, and a ranking of 193rd for campus ethnic diversity according to U.S. News, it’s time Penn State starts taking a serious look at the cultural climate on campus. The sisters of Chi Omega are just one example of the racial insensitivity that is present at this university, and it’s time for that to end.
(UPDATE 1:12 p.m.) – The Daily Collegian was able to get a statement from Jessica Riccardi, the president of the Nu Gamma chapter of Chi Omega, who confirmed that the sorority was under investigation.
“Our chapter of Chi Omega sincerely apologizes for portraying inappropriate and untrue stereotypes. The picture in question does not support any of Chi Omega’s values or reflect what the organization aspires to be.”
The Panhellenic Council executive board also released a statement to the Collegian.
“The Penn State Panhellenic Council recognizes the offensive nature of the photo and is therefore taking the matter very seriously. We are addressing the situation immediately with the members of the chapter in conjunction with their national headquarters. The Penn State Panhellenic Council does not condone any form of derogatory behavior from any of our members. Our Council and all its members strive to hold ourselves to a high standard and are disappointed by any failure to meet these expectations.”