Open Letter To Rodney Erickson Regarding Chi Omega

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Where do I even begin? How about with the sentiment that the “controversy” stirred over Chi Omega’s actions (which are– at worst mildly– offensive) is counter productive?

Was the Mexican-Themed party in bad taste? I guess you could say that it is—but only if you also consider St. Patrick’s Day parties (which perpetuate Irish stereotypes), Christmas parties (which discriminate against non-Christians), Toga Parties (which belittle Greek and Roman heritage) in “bad taste” as well. What’s to say that Penn State’s students of Mediterranean heritage won’t be offended by the “insensitivity” and “unawareness” shown to their culture as they watch drunk 19-year-olds staggering out of a party, draped with white sheets and robes?

We might as well ban and condemn everything that makes any sort of reference to any culture or creed because there’s a chance that someone, somewhere may be offended by it.

My point is not that racially offensive jokes/stereotypes are acceptable, my point is that there is an overwhelming degree of hypocrisy to the critics of Chi Omega. What exactly makes a Mexican themed party so much more offensive than any of the other culturally themed parties that I referenced?

I feel that part of the issue is due to a vocal minority of people that were flustered enough by this mildly offensive joke to make some noise about it (and it’s certainly within their rights to do so). According to Onward State articles, somewhere between 80-100 students gathered in a Willard Lecture Hall on Wednesday to discuss the “disgusting” actions of Chi Omega—standing together in resolve that this party was somehow an affront to “Penn State’s cultural identity.” It’s as if some people think that by merely being offended about something (especially when it comes to race, religion, social issues) automatically gives their statements a moral or ethical highground. This line of thinking is sometimes beneficial, but in such instances as this, I feel that said thinking becomes blurred which results in empty (albeit emotional) statements—in fact I think that Rodney Erickson’s latest email, more than anything else, truly showcases what I’m referring to.

The email itself, the latest installment in an apparently indefinite series of solemn and melodramatic memos from Erickson regarding the tarnishing of Penn State’s reputation, angered me mainly because it lacked self awareness. In this email, Erickson and his Penn State affiliates demonize this sorority based on a single action—which is, by definition, stereotyping. Therefore, I see the statements made by Erickson and his cohorts to equate to nothing but a lame, shortsighted attempt to cover their bases in the wake of the worst scandal in Penn State history. On that note, Erickson stresses Penn State’s “reputation” and “psychological trauma” in his email—though I seem to remember him less than 6 months ago making limited attempts (beyond weekly email updates) to support or defend Penn State University and its students during the Sandusky trial, Freeh Report and NCAA sanctions…but I digress.

In closing, I believe that the energy being put behind the pseudo-controversy erupting over Chi Omega would be much better put to use in other ways. Why doesn’t this amount of passion and outrage appear when a student is arrested for a DUI, an action that could tangibly harm students and non-students alike? What if we were able to gather 80-100 people inside a Willard lecture hall to discuss date rape, drug abuse and drunk driving? All of which are issues that, in my opinion, are far more detrimental and relevant to Penn State’s reputation. This would be a much more productive use of time and resources than bickering over the short-sighted actions of an isolated group of drunk sorority girls at a Halloween party a month-and-a-half ago.

I do not believe that racism should be considered acceptable. Likewise, I will not condone faulty reasoning and hypocrisy—something that far too many of us seem to express when it comes to emotionally charged issues such as this one.

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  1. You make some very good points. But for me, it wasn’t the costumes but the signs coupled with the costumes that took it too far. Just a dumb move, especially to put online, but anyone who thinks a few sorority girls represent the entire Penn State population is being ridiculous.

  2. friends with asians on

    The “vocal minority of people” who were offended is clearly not fraught with white people with names like “Hunter.” Talk to some of your minority friends and see what they think.

    • I’m glad that you speak for all minorities and specifically referred to my race as making my argument invalid. Again, I will reiterate that my argument is not that racism is “okay,” but rather that there is a palpable degree of hypocrisy to the people making such an uproar about this issue. Nevertheless, I will make note of your feedback.

  3. Rod Erickson has no right to tell us what is and what is not offensive because the way he handled everything with the NCAA and JoePa is very offensive. He didn’t stand up for Penn State and he deserves to lose his job, we need a leader, not a coward.