Students target frats for ‘cultural appropriation’

Student senators at the University of Washington-Seattle recently introduced a bill that would require fraternities to prevent “cultural appropriation” during social gatherings.

If passed, the “Resolution in Support for a More Culturally Aware Greek Community” would mandate that Greek organizations “formally establish preventative strategies for eliminating acts of cultural appropriation” on campus.

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The legislation was drafted by Cassie Sigua, a UW senior and a lead lobbyist for the UW Pacific Islander Student Commission

In an interview with Campus Reform, Sigua said the bill is necessary because many “mainstream [fraternity] celebrations further perpetuate stereotypes minority groups have to face,” adding that they contribute to the “harm that minority students face” on campus. 

When fraternity members commit cultural appropriation, “the meaning of the objects that are so sacred to students’ cultural heritage become obscured or tainted,” she continued. “Elements simply become a mainstream fashion or festivity that you can celebrate.” 

The party review process the resolution seeks to implement would require fraternities to consider whether “the festivities further promote stereotypes of a minority group,” and also whether they are using “any symbols or representations from a cultural heritage.” 

Though the resolution would have no direct power over fraternities if passed, members of the commission plan on taking the bill to administrators if fraternities do not voluntarily comply. So far, no fraternities have shown interest in backing the bill, the commission admitted.

Sigua told Campus Reform that fighting cultural appropriation would “help dismantle stereotypes, and will empower marginalized groups to truly feel as though they can adequately engage with the rest of society of authentic forms of their culture.”

“We want UW to take action if [cultural appropriation] happens,” she maintained, as first reported by The Daily. “An apology is not going to do anything. Students are actually being harmed by this.” 

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The UW student government meets every Tuesday, and will likely take a formal vote on the resolution before the end of the Spring semester. The UW student government operates with an annual budget of approximately $1,000,000, and has 72 student employees. 

Campus Reform reached out to UW to ask if the administration would consider intervening to help prevent cultural appropriation in Greek Life, but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen