‘Jamaican Me Crazy’ event shut down
Pi Kappa Alpha’s annual Jamaican Me Crazy event was shut down by the university last week when concerns about the impact on minority groups on campus were raised.
The event, a beach-themed Caribbean party, was supposed to be held on March 13 in the Turret and has been held by the fraternity annually since 1998. Pi Kappa Alpha said that this is the first time they’ve experienced issues with the event.
Ryan Brown, a member of Pi Kappa Alpha, has been part of the frat since 2010. Brown explained that the main purpose of the event was not to offend anyone, but to get people back into spring and get ready for summer.
“We’re just an organization on campus that likes to have fun and we just like to hold parties and get our name known. It’s just something we’ve done forever.”
According to Brown, nothing was different about the event than previous ones—only a few organizational changes—but nothing that would relate to the negative response.
Samantha Estoesta, executive director of Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG), said her attention was first brought to the event through a series of student emails expressing their concern. They directed her to the event’s Facebook page.
“The way they described Jamaica, the fact that they were advocating for costume-use, the way the event was described. And they had no partnership with actual Caribbean groups and there are multiple on campus. Those were all warning signs to me,” she explained.
She contacted the fraternity via the event page on Facebook expressing her concerns and suggesting that they partner-up with a campus Caribbean group. Their initial response was that the concerns with the event were hypersensitive.
“I just wanted to make sure there was representation,” she said. “We were then blocked from the group and the event was deleted or became a private group— I’m not sure because again I couldn’t see it.”
At this point, Estoesta decided to go to Leanne Holland Brown, the dean of students.
A week prior to the event taking place, the fraternity changed the name of the event to Pikes of the Caribbean and also altered the theme. This was the week the event was cancelled by Laurier.
According to Brown, no other problems have risen between the university and the fraternity other than the cancellation of the event.
“We get so much negative treatment just because of the way the media portrays us even though media is inaccurate to who we are, so it’s really ironic that the people who are so pro-tolerant are stereotyping us and not giving us a chance to prove that we’re different from our media image,” he continued.
Holland Brown declined to comment on the incident, instead giving a statement:
“Faculty, staff and students do a lot of great work to further the values of diversity, inclusivity and respect. It’s important to recognize and create meaningful learning opportunities where they exist to strengthen and support these values.”
Estoesta believes that there needs to a filtration process for events taking place on campus in order to avoid situations like this.
One possibility would be having groups submit their marketing material to the Students’ Union before being able to book out the Turret.
“It’s not like this group is being attacked for wanting to have a party. Because having a party and raising funds for a philanthropic thing that has to do with the Pi Kappa Alphas would have been great,” Estoesta explained. “What the event was saying, it was the type of costuming that could have been done, it was the harmful language that was used against a minority group on campus.”
She also believes it would be helpful for clubs, fraternities and sororities to go through sensitivity training to help create a preventative approach.
Estoesta continued, “The system, if it’s done correctly for frats and sororities, is a great way for learning leadership skills and understanding how to be a person of leadership in the world that we know. I would hate to see this become such a divide that frats on campus aren’t welcome or sororities aren’t welcome on campus because I think that’s ignoring a demographic of students that deserve to have their own representation.”
According to Estoesta, discussions between the administration and Pi Kappa Alpha are ongoing.
“From all parties that I know, there was and is continuing discussions about this.”