Photos were posted this weekend on social media with various “Vietnam cocktail” captions showing students wearing straw hats, army gear and one person donning a Viet Cong flag at or before a fraternity party.
Since the photos were posted, some students have said the party’s theme was insensitive, while the fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, says the war was never an intended theme.
Stephen Stephano, the president of Delta Kappa Epsilon, said in an interview that the members-only cocktail was 1960s- and ’70s-themed.
Stephano said he stood at the door of the party and told attendees not to wear anything offensive.
“Some people wore camo,” he said. “I did not see rice hats, I saw some other things.”
Stephano would not comment on those things, but noted many people dressed in appropriate attire as hippies and musicians among others.
Interfraternity Council President Peter Blumberg said Stephano made attendees who wore offensive clothing take it off before coming in.
“Stephen made sure they changed as soon as they arrived,” he said.
“A handful of people chose to dress as U.S. Vietnam fighters or Vietnamese people, which is a questionable call. This is not an act by the entire fraternity. It’s unfortunate that a few people have landed the fraternity in hot water.”
Aaron Bachenheimer, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Community Involvement, said he heard concerns about the event and contacted Stephano that night.
Bachenheimer said UNC cannot punish fraternities for party themes.
“Whenever we have an insensitive theme … we may engage with the national organization and they may choose to institute some appropriate sanctions depending on the issue,” he said.
Bachenheimer meets with chapter leaders twice a year to discuss party themes and potential consequences.
Shannon McKerlie, a sophomore at UNC who heard the party was Vietnam War-themed from a friend, said she was offended by students’ decisions to imitate Vietnamese people and wear Army garb.
“That was a bad part of our history that should be looked on in a more solemn way,” she said. “Any time you have people dress up as a certain ethnicity, it gets pretty racist pretty fast.”
Linda Vu, a senior sociology major who is Vietnamese, said some of the outfits at the party she saw on social media were an example of racism that happens all over the country.
“This might be cynical, but I’m not exactly surprised that something like that would happen,” she said.
“Sorry, I can’t really laugh at something that tore my family apart and that just changed the entire course of my family’s trajectory and people like me,” she said.
Stephano said his fraternity does not support intolerance.
“You have to respect other cultures,” Stephano said. “We are a fraternity of other cultures, and I would hate to offend someone.”
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