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Responding to Sigma Chi party, community members present demands of administration

More than two weeks after Sigma Chi fraternity's controversial "Viva Mexico" party sparked campus and national debate, a group of community members has drafted a petition of comprehensive demands directed toward the University administration.

Concerned students, faculty, staff and administrators who took "direct and personal offense" to the Sept. 13 party call for a major push by the University to bring its commitment to supporting Latino, Asian-American and Native-American students and faculty up to the same level as that for their black counterparts. Representatives of the group are expected to present their demands to President Nan Keohane Wednesday.

The list of 12 demands was distributed at the conclusion of an open forum on the issue of reparations Monday night, during which group representatives asked for community members to sign in support. "We, [collectively] as a minority community, are seeking commitment to change," said junior Jason Hendrickson, one of the representatives. "We want not only to stop incidents from happening..., [but also] to look out for the future and bring in concrete change."

Members of the administration were unavailable for comment late Monday night.

In its explanation of its demands, the concerned community members said the Viva Mexico party is another in a long history of "racially insensitive incidents" at Duke, and the University needs to "address the systematic problems of intolerance and ignorance on campus" and "create a supportive, inclusive atmosphere for all members of the Duke community."

Foremost among the demands are the creation of programs in Native American studies and Asian American studies, as well as a strengthening of the Latino and Sexual Studies programs.

An effort to form an Asian American Studies program has been in the works for at least two years, but there has never been any push for a Native American Studies program, with Native Americans representing less than a quarter of a percent of the total student population. The petition also calls for the implementation of a minority faculty initiative similar to the recently-successfully-concluded Black Faculty Strategic Initiative, as well as endowed scholarships for non-black minority students and the continued advancement of minority administrators.

"[This issue] shouldn't be a black-white dichotomy; this issue should be under a larger scope of the minority community," Hendrickson said. "[The petition] is important because it emphasizes the importance of other minority groups that may have been overlooked in the past." The group's demands also take aim at some of the parties involved directly and indirectly with the response to Sigma Chi's recent party, which offended many members of the Latino community by featuring a "border control" at the entrance and handing out expired green card invitations. The University decided not to punish the fraternity for its actions.

Specifically, the petition asks for:

* The creation of a task force made up of greek and cultural group representatives to examine registration of themed events on campus and "ways to ensure that potentially racially charged, offensive or stereotypical themed events do not occur."
* A "response from Judicial Affairs and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, codifying the measures taken if the principle of 'respect for others,' as stated in the Duke Community Standard, is violated at student events."
* "The Office of Student Affairs to publish a one-page ad in The Chronicle and the Dialogue each semester, detailing University policy on hate crimes."
* "The establishment of Latino/a, Asian American and Native American cultural centers, which are all in a central location in the new Student Village and near the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, the LGBT Center and the Multicultural Center, as well as an increase in resources and advising support for minority students and

minority student groups on campus." The concerned community members also call for increased dialogue among minority student leaders, student affairs leaders and other top University brass.

"Every four years a new student class graduates, and with that class goes the experiences they've had," Hendrickson said. "The information has the opportunity of not being passed down. By creating dialogue, the administration [will not be able to] let time handle things." Besides asking for an immediate meeting to discuss its demands, the group also requests an open monthly meeting among the vice president of student affairs, other student affairs officials and the President's Council, a group of student leaders. It also calls for an open monthly meeting among the provost, vice provost for undergraduate education, dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences, dean of Trinity College, deans of humanities and of social sciences and President's Council.

"We want to continue to be informed.... We are stressing that we are kept updated, not out of the loop," Hendrickson said.

The petition asks for a response from the University by Oct. 15 and for a plan to implement the changes to go into effect before Dec. 31.

--Aaron Levine contributed to this story.


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