California State University-San Marcos will not punish members of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority on campus after offensive photos taken during a spring break retreat showed women dressed as "cholas," or Latina gang members.
The photos depicted women wearing flannel shirts and bandanas, while mimicking gang signs. Latina members of the sorority participated in the dress-up, U-T San Diego reports, but nevertheless angered Latino members of the CSU-San Marcos community.
"Behaviors that violate our values don’t always violate our rules," Cathy Baur, associate vice president for communications at CSU-San Marcos, told The Huffington Post, in explaining why the sorority members would not face sanctions.
"This was an unfortunate incident but we are using it to help in our learning process for our entire campus community," Baur said. "Incidents of bias, discrimination and disrespect may never go away completely despite our best efforts, but it’s how we respond as a united campus community when incidents do occur that sets us apart from other institutions nationwide."
U-T San Diego reports the sorority is not commenting to local media about the incident, but did issue an apology:
Alpha Chi Omega President Megan Koelln issued a tearful apology during Tuesday’s meeting.
“We apologize from the bottom of our hearts,” Koelln said. “It was a mistake and a lack of education on our part.”
Koelln declined an interview after the meeting or to discuss details about the incident.
The photos were originally posted on an Alpha Chi Omega sister's Instagram account, but have since been removed, KGTV reports.
"They have no notion or understanding of the ramifications these pictures can create," Margarita Uribe, a CSU-San Marcos student, told KGTV. "We don't feel safe. We feel a constant ridicule or mockery of our culture."
Alma Martinez, a student at CSU-San Marcos, told U-T San Diego the photos were "disrespectful."
Baur said the university has taken action in response to the incident. Student orientations will include additional components "related to civility," she said, and Greek organizations will have to take part in sensitivity and diversity trainings.
Like CSU-San Marcos' Alpha Chi Omega, Penn State University's Chi Omega sparked controversy for its Mexican-themed party but did not face punishment.
Just last week, a University of California-Irvine fraternity apologized for appearing in blackface in a video.
Racist dress-up incidents also led to backlash for the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at the University of Florida and Duke University's Kappa Sigma.