By Kevin Simpson
The two organizations—the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority—hosted the party on Feb. 25. Three days later, members of the Native Student Alliance saw photos of the party, including revelers in Indian garb, on Facebook and contacted Johanna Leyba, DU's assistant provost for inclusive excellence and the group's staff adviser, to express their frustration.
Beyond angering American Indian students, who said the dress-up party belittled their culture and spirituality, the theme also violated DU's diversity statement, said Leyba.
The fraternity and sorority responded with a letter of apology on March 1. The NSA asked if they would read it publicly, and they agreed.
By Simon Moya-Smith
Following Tinker and several other Native speakers, Ross Larson, a member of Lambda Chi Alpha, publicly apologized and said the party was held “out of ignorance,” and not “racism.”
“We understand our event was insensitive and hurtful to other members of the DU community,” said Larson. “I’m here to make sure we can right our wrongs.”
Delta Delta Delta representative Molly Gasch said during her apology that the party will “be the last of its kind for our groups.”
“We understand that we have detrimentally affected more than just ourselves by failing to act as the community leaders that we strive to be,” she said, reading from a document. “Both of our organizations will be using this as an opportunity to improve our fraternity and sorority member education programs by increasing awareness and sensitivity of minority groups on campus.”
Following the event Salas commented that she had been concerned that the apology would be insincere. After the apologies were read, she said she felt that Larson and Gasch were genuinely remorseful.
These students share the common perception that "racist" means "having a hate-filled heart toward minorities." No. It simply means discriminating by race. The students singled out Indians for the stereotypical treatment. ("Cowboy" is an occupation, not a racial category.) Their actions were racist by definition.
For more on the subject, see University of Denver's Cowboys and Indians Party.
Below: "Dr. Tink Tinker, left, professor at the Iliff School of Theology and a citizen of the Wazhazhe Osage Nation, smudges two Greek Life students on the DU Campus. Ross Larson, center, is a member of Lambda Chi Alpha and read the apology on behalf of his fraternity." (Simon Moya-Smith)