A Letter to President Powers on Fiji

Mauricio Garcia

Mr. President,


Earlier this week, University of Oklahoma President David Boren made national and international headlines by denouncing a fraternity’s chant that singled out and discriminated against African-Americans.

The moment Boren found out about the chant, he was quick to call out the individuals involved and threatened disciplinary action. Not long after, he kicked the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter off campus and ordered the members living there to remove their belongings. A day later, he expelled two students charged with leadership roles in the racist chant. Boren acted quickly and boldly to draw a line in the sand against discrimination at his university.

On Feb. 7, the Phi Gamma Delta chapter at UT Austin held a party that mocked Mexican culture. While the Fiji house is not on campus, unlike the SAE house at OU, you could have set a precedent by condemning the “border patrol” party.

Instead, you sent other administration officials to address the issue and left it to the student leaders on campus to decry the event. A student-written letter of concern with over 1,000 signatures was not enough for your administration to take action. A rally with over 200 students was held and still, no action. Earlier this week, a forum regarding the party was hosted by the Center for Mexican American Studies and the overall consensus was clear: a lack of your administration’s support.

On Tuesday, you released a statement saying that you “deplore this behavior, which is contrary to the core values of The University of Texas at Austin.”

I completely agree with you, Mr. President. These types of events shouldn’t occur and like you, I deplore this behavior. The problem then comes with your statement: pure talk and no action.

The core values are unimportant if there is no one to defend them. As UT’s top administrative official, you should safeguard these core principles and take action to make sure that students employ them.

Today is March 13. It took you 33 days to even make a comment about a discriminatory event just off campus. Thirty-three days! It took Boren just hours to make a single comment about the events at his university.

The Latino community at UT did not ask for any of the Fiji students to be expelled, but we didn’t ask for silence, either. The fact that you are commenting 33 days after such an issue goes to show how much you care, understand the pain of those offended and how unimportant you think such discriminatory events are to your diversity agenda.

Yes, Mr. President, you are a lame duck president, but you could have left an even stronger legacy by taking action — and yet you didn’t. You could have held a town hall asking the UT community how they felt about this — and yet you didn’t. You could have made sure that your administration was the one reaching out to students and not the other way around. You could have done so many things — and yet you didn’t. I invite you to participate and communicate with us, to take action, to do something about the injustices we face on your campus — our campus!

Mr. President, on behalf of the underrepresented groups on campus, I must say that you have failed us. Your inability to act will only pave the way for further racially discriminatory events at UT, and as always, I am sure your response will be that your hands are tied. Shame on you, Mr. President. 

García is a government, history, international relations and Latin American studies senior from Brownsville.