Latino Students Protest At Penn State, After Racist Sorority Picture Stirs Controversy

12/14/2012 04:03 pm ET
  • The Huffington Post

A Latino group at Penn State organized a silent march on Thursday in the hope of increasing Latino recruitment at the university, just weeks after an offensive photo of a sorority party drew attention to race relations there.

"The incident definitely served as a catalyst for all this but it's not the reason we are doing it," Manuel Figueroa, head of the Puerto Rican Student Association, told CNN. "There are grievances to a larger issue that we believe the university should take up."

The offensive picture of a “Mexican-themed” party at the Penn State chapter of the Chi Omego sorority has sparked discussions of race relations on campus, according to Onward State.

“Why should my parents spend money for me to go to a university that is insensitive to my culture?” one student asked during a meeting of campus organizations including the NAACP, the Black Caucus, the Puerto Rican Student Association, the Mexican American Student Association and others, according to Onward State.

The Mexican American Student Association declined to join the protest, preferring to work behind the scenes to expand the Latino Studies program into a university department, CNN reports.

Chi Omega sorority put its Penn State branch on probation after its members posted pictures to social media of a “Mexican-themed” party, in which girls wore sombreros, ponchos and fake moustaches. In the picture, two held signs reading “will mow lawn for weed + beer” and “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it.”

Around 21.5 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds in the United States use the drug, according to a study released last year by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. By contrast, only 1 percent of Mexican adults smoked marijuana in 2008, according the most recent estimate from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

About 5 percent of Penn State students are Latino, according to the Associated Press.

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