The Delta Tau Delta fraternity hosted a party Friday that featured a theme some considered offensive, according to multiple students who attended the party.
The fraternity advertised the party as “Black Friday.” The Daily Trojan acquired photos showing a poster that said “For the Culture” on the side of the Delta Tau Delta house and a photo from inside the party, where the name “Jemimah” was spray painted on the side of a table.
Kelsey Hawkins, a sophomore majoring in lifespan health, went into the Delta Tau Delta house after seeing the posters outside.
“It wasn’t anything too explicit — we were afraid we were going to walk in and see a scene like something from Dear White People, [and] that obviously wasn’t the case, but it was still really upsetting,” Hawkins said.
Along with posters that indicated a race-based theme, the decorations and attire of the fraternity’s members allegedly perpetuated racial stereotypes, according to Hawkins and another student at the party who wished to remain anonymous. They both said that there was graffiti on the walls and that many of the fraternity’s members wore basketball jerseys.
However, multiple other sources saw nothing unusual at the party.
Shreya Sridhara, a freshman majoring in neuroscience, attended the party and said that she perceived the theme to be referring to the black lights present in the house and not a reference to race.
“They had these cool black light-esque lights swirling around, and they had smoke or fog machines that made cool patterns,” Sridhara said.
Similarly, a Facebook event description for the party made no reference to race.
“There will be mobs of people waiting outside trying to get in,” the description said. “The only difference is at DTD, we like to take Black Friday very literally. That means we’re blacking everything out from the windows to the walls. Come with your clothes blacked out and leave even more blacked out.”
Sridhara also said she remembers seeing writing on the walls, but does not remember what any of the writing said.
Delta Tau Delta treasurer Mario Blanco said in a statement emailed to the Daily Trojan that the fraternity was unaware of any insensitive themes.
“We have not received any reports, nor do we know of any culturally insensitive decorations or themes at our party on Jan. 26; however, if any elements were interpreted as being offensive, it was not our intent and we certainly apologize,” Blanco said in the statement. “Our fraternity places great value on cultural diversity and respect, so should any student become concerned about any of our events, we encourage them to reach out to our chapter at email@example.com.”
However, Hawkins said that she believed the decorations were intentionally offensive.
“You don’t have a ‘Black Friday’ party and put a ‘For the Culture’ sign outside and say that it was an accident,” Hawkins said. “Nothing like that in this day and age can be called an accident.”
The Interfraternity Council declined to comment on the party.
The allegations come amid a history of racially insensitive theme parties at college fraternities across America.
In 2015, students at UCLA protested after students wore blackface and baggy clothes to a “Kanye Western”-themed party hosted by the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority, the Daily Bruin reported.
Although there have not been other reports of such parties at USC in the past, according to a Daily Trojan article from 2015, then-USG president Rini Sampath reported that a fraternity member hurled a drink at her and shouted, “You Indian piece of sh-t!” while she was walking on the Row.