After three years at the University, LSA junior Ana Del Angel is used to ignorance. She just wasn’t expecting it to wear a sombrero.
Del Angel said she and some friends set out to Panchero’s for a late-night snack on Oct. 19. As the group rounded the corner of South University and South Forest avenues, Del Angel said they spotted a white male with a huge sombrero on his head and a trash can in his hands.
According to Del Angel and others in her group, the man asked them, in a fake Mexican accent, to donate “Money por de children de Mexico.”
“At first we were just like, OK, he’s being a goof,” Del Angel said.
But then Del Angel’s boyfriend, LSA senior Brian Garcia, asked the man what he was doing and whether he knew it was offensive. According to Garcia and Del Angel, the man said, “Man, don’t give me a hard time about this, I’m doing this for a fraternity.”
In a letter to The Michigan Daily, Garcia detailed what he saw and called for an “immediate and thorough investigation” into the incident by the Interfraternity Council, the governing council of many of the University’s fraternities.
“Are these the values that the IFC stands for? Not only is an IFC organization potentially degrading their pledges, but they are also forcing them to do racist public acts,” he wrote.
Garcia said the man’s response upset him further because Garcia himself is a brother in the Latino fraternity Lambda Theta Phi.
“It’s offensive on ten different levels,” he said. “Not only are you hazing a pledge but you’re making him do something that is racist. He’s making fun of an issue that’s a really big problem in Mexico.”
Del Angel and LSA junior Jonathan Elbaz, who was with the group, said they believe the man may have been drinking and that he appeared to be embarrassed by his own actions.
“He looked like he was ashamed,” Del Angel said. “I hope that he’s questioning why he’s joining such a fraternity.”
When Garcia asked the man which fraternity he was pledging, the man named Phi Kappa Psi. But numerous people said that couldn’t have been true, citing the fact that Phi Kappa Psi held a date party on Oct. 19 in Detroit.
Phi Kappa Psi President Ben Glaze denied vehemently that the fraternity had any involvement in the incident.
“It’s a shame that someone unaffiliated with our organization would make slanderous statements in an effort to damage the integrity of Phi Kappa Psi, an organization that does not tolerate hazing of any kind,” Glaze said in an e-mail message.
IFC President Jared Averbuch said he was aware of the incident but does not know which fraternity – if any – is responsible.
“It could always be a case where someone says they’re a part of a fraternity and they’re not,” Averbuch said.
But Averbuch said that he takes any allegations of hazing and racism very seriously and that he plans to file a formal complaint with the IFC’s Hazing Task Force as soon as he has enough information to do so.
“Even if the results of the Task Force’s investigation are not conclusive, I’d still like to address the incident publicly,” Averbuch said. “The Lambdas stepped up publicly and we at the IFC have to as well. Sometimes it’s hard to control individual’s actions, but we do have control over the response, over how we handle it.”
The Greek system held numerous events on campus last week to recognize Hazing Prevention Week.
Averbuch said the IFC has anti-hazing training sessions and is constantly trying to promote dialogue about racism and hazing in the Greek system.
Averbuch said that in the past, people might have kept quiet about such an incident.
“I appreciate the gentlemen for stepping forward and saying something about this,” he said. “I plan to follow up. The culture is changing.”
Elbaz reported the incident to Averbuch. Elbaz and Averbuch are both members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
“I pledged last winter semester and we did nothing that was even close to that,” he said. Elbaz, who identifies as Hispanic, said that the incident reflects issues of diversity at the University.
“This just shows how divided the campus is and how ignorant people still are,” he said.
Garcia said the members of Lambda Theta Phi were furious about the incident.
“All of them were mad to say the least,” he said.
The Lambdas are planning a two-part workshop to further address hazing and multicultural issues in the Greek community. Garcia said everyone – especially IFC members – is welcome to attend the event.
Elbaz said he would like to see action taken against the fraternity responsible for the hazing incident.
“It should be clear that this is not acceptable and that the fraternity in question should be severely punished,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there was talk about expulsion (from the IFC).”
Ana Del Angel, however, is not interested in retribution.
“I’m not the kind of person to seek punishment,” she said.
Del Angel, who was born in Mexico, said the incident saddened her deeply.
“Poverty is a problem in Mexico and people know nothing about it,” she said.
Del Angel said the incident does not bode well for race relations at the University.
“It’s kind of sad that we have to be like, ‘Oh well, it happens,’ ” she said. “It sucks that being here at Michigan, you still see those kinds of things. If we are diverse, why are things like this still happening?”