University of Virginia Investigates Fraternity and Sorority For “Cultural Appropriation” Offenses

According to The Cavalier Daily, the University of Virginia is proceeding against a fraternity and sorority for “engag[ing] in alleged cultural appropriation” during chapter-sponsored activities. The violations involved students at the Kappa Sigma fraternity dressed as American Indians and members of the Zeta Tau Alpha “wearing sombreros and holding maracas.”

The Facebook message  from the Inter-Fraternity Council at UVA referenced “the prejudiced and culturally insensitive attire” worn by students at the functions.

I have admittedly been a critic of some of these claims on college campuses. We discussed a basketball game where a player was attacked due to wearing braids that 20-year-old Hispanic student, Carmen Figueroa, claimed to be cultural misappropriation.  Then there was the controversy at Pitzer College where white female students were warned to take off big hoop earrings as cultural appropriation.  Then there were the students at Oberlin who declared the serving of sushi as cultural appropriation while a white student was assaulted at San Francisco State University for wearing dreadlocks by an African American student. At the heart of some of these controversies is the claim of exclusivity in the use or enjoyment of styles, foods, art, or material originally associated with one culture.

The problem is both conceptual and definitional. I often disagree with the premise that people are appropriating culture by incorporating styles or foods or art into their own forms of expression. More importantly, this is an ill-defined standard of when a cultural style or symbol or language is deemed appropriative. This is not to say that costumes cannot be offensive and criticized. However, these are all forms of expression and sanctions raise issues of both due process and free speech that are often brushed aside.

76 thoughts on “University of Virginia Investigates Fraternity and Sorority For “Cultural Appropriation” Offenses”

  1. The down side of the dumbing down of America. The other side of cultural appropriation is acculturation….. if we are being told we cannot behave like Americans in our own Country by people who seem to want to deny acculturation…..there better be a darn good alternative that serves everyone both positively and equally. We don’t all share the same past but if you live here by choice you are agreeing to share the same future…we can’t make that Stellar leap without change. Respect goes a lot further than aggressive accusation and only then if it is employed by all sides in an equation. If I want to wear a certain style of something and it is not in mockery, I will wear it. I will never deny you the right to wear it either. If you don’t want to to share your cultural history then you are in the wrong Country. This is a melting pot not a hacked up tyrannical land of tribal melt downs.
    Rant over.

    1. “…the harmony of the ingredients is all-important, and whatever tends to a discordant intermixture must have an injurious tendency.”

      More hysteria and incoherence.

      More irrational propaganda and indoctrination – welcome to her new imagined reality (she imagines that the unconstitutional artifices of “Affirmative Action Privilege” and “Generational Welfare” actually make her equal).

      Since this is the Untied States of America, we might consider the concepts of its Founders regarding acculturation, assimilation, immigration and/or deleterious invasion.

      “Suppose 20 millions of republican Americans thrown all of a sudden into France, what would be the condition of that kingdom?” “If it would be more turbulent, less happy, less strong, we may believe that the addition of half a million of foreigners to our present numbers would produce a similar effect here.”

      – Thomas Jefferson

      “The influx of foreigners must, therefore, tend to produce a heterogeneous compound; to change and corrupt the national spirit; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities. In the composition of society, the harmony of the ingredients is all-important, and whatever tends to a discordant intermixture must have an injurious tendency.”

      – Alexander Hamilton

      There was no particular need for the U.S. to encourage immigration “…except of useful mechanics and some particular descriptions of men or professions.” “The policy or advantage of its taking place in a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for by so doing, they retain the language, habits, and principles (good or bad) which they bring with them.”

      – George Washington

      Obviously the American “Melting Pot” was conceived to be of Europeans as immigrants were thrice required to be “…free white person(s)…” by the Naturalization Acts of 1790, 1795 and 1802, and of the same “nourishing mother” or Alma Mater.

      Melting Pot

      The first use in American literature of the concept of immigrants “melting” into the receiving culture are found in the writings of J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur. In his Letters from an American Farmer (1782) Crevecoeur writes, in response to his own question, “What then is the American, this new man?” that the American is one who “leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater.”

      – Wiki

  2. Here’s a set of suggestions. It won’t solve your problem, but it may reduce it’s incidence.

    1. Add to all Virginia voter registration forms a question which asks the registrant to list any school in Virginia from which he received a baccalaureate degree, a master’s degree, a professional doctorate, or a research doctorate. Have the local board of elections assemble the responses and forward them to the state board of elections or secretary of state.

    2. Have officials of the state board of elections or secretary of state cross check these lists against alumni records of the institutions in question. The registrations which cross-check would be added to a statewide database of registered alumni for each institution. Those where there are anomalies would be put on a holding list. The state could notify the local board, who could send a notice to the voter in question, asking him to contact the institution for proofs and to send documents to clarify matters. The local board could then notify the state if and when a voter clarifies matters successfully, and the state roll updated accordingly.

    3. Have the secretary of state or state board conduct elections to the boards of all baccalaureate granting institutions in the state, public and private. By law, the term of office of a trustee would be four years. All elections would be held during the 4th year of a quadrennial cycle, i.e. one year prior to a federal presidential election. The number of trustees to be elected for each institution would be a function of the number of registered alumni – seven or nine would be about normal – but never fewer than five.

    4. To be a candidate, you would have to be on the electoral roll for the institution in question – i.e. an alumnus registered to vote in the Commonwealth of Virginia. To register your candidacy, you’d have to fill out a standard form and put down a monetary deposit (which would be forfeit if you fail to reach certain performance metrics in the voting). You would also add to your forms a statement of candidacy of no more than 600 words, explaining to prospective voters your objects in running.

    5. There would be no single stereotype for the ballot for elections to a given institution. Rather, there would be as many stereotypes as candidates who have qualified for the ballot. In a low information election, it is necessary to vary the order of the candidates on the ballot, or the election will be determined by people who just mark candidates in the order in which they appear. First, you must have a drawing of the candidates who have qualified, placing the drawn cards on a daisywheel as you draw them. To construct a stereotype, select a candidate on the wheel for the top position and then select second spot, third spot, &c by moving about the wheel counter-clockwise. You construct the next stereotype by selecting a different candidate and moving about the wheel counter-clockwise. You print equal numbers of each stereotype. Among the whole body of ballots mailed out, each aspirant will have an equal chance to occupy the 1st position, 2d position, 3d position &c.

    6. Once the ballots are printed, the secretary of state or state board will mail out to the voters on the roll for each institution a package consisting of a ballot, a return envelope, some instructions, and a prospectus. The prospectus will consist of the printed and bound compendium of the statement of candidacy each aspirant has filed. The voter fills out the ballot and mails it back. The ballots are kept in a lock box which is not opened until election day, at which time the ballots are tabulated. Ballots arriving after election day are returned to sender by the secretary of state, and not tabulated.

    7. Ideally, such ballots are ordinal ballots, wherein the voter rank-orders his choices. They are tabulated by the board according to the Condorcet method.

    You might just get a board willing to critically evaluate the acts of the administration and engage in due diligence.

    1. “…to list any school in Virginia from which he received…. ”


      How insensitive. Male oppression!!!

      1. Yep.

        That means the women are off having babies…lots of babies to reverse the “death spiral” of the American fertility rate so that America can stop importing its population; that of burgeoning hyphenates.

        To wit,

        “Suppose 20 millions of republican Americans thrown all of a sudden into France, what would be the condition of that kingdom?” “If it would be more turbulent, less happy, less strong, we may believe that the addition of half a million of foreigners to our present numbers would produce a similar effect here.”

        – Thomas Jefferson

        “The influx of foreigners must, therefore, tend to produce a heterogeneous compound; to change and corrupt the national spirit; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities. In the composition of society, the harmony of the ingredients is all-important, and whatever tends to a discordant intermixture must have an injurious tendency.”

        – Alexander Hamilton

  3. Better just jump to the end of all of this . Ok I admit it. Sometimes when I sing in the car I pretend I am Whitney. Where do I report for my lashing ?

  4. More importantly, this is an ill-defined standard of when a cultural style or symbol or language is deemed appropriative.

    That’s the whole point. It leaves oodles of discretion to institutional employees and their mascots among the student body. The whole business is a status allocation exercise. The motor is the kicks fools get from socially-sanctioned aggression.

    Keep in mind the dean of students’ office is populated with people with MEd degrees, i.e. mediocre people. Their mascots among the students are two-fold: people who got knocked around in high school and want revenge and people who aren’t doing well in school because admissions standards were relaxed to give them a place. The faculty is, without a doubt largely populated with people who (moving about this country) regard themselves as visitors from a superior neighborhood. All of these segments despise us deplorables and look for opportunities to injure us.

    This grotesque silliness is a consequence of the deficient moral character of various stakeholders in higher education. That is, the deficient moral character of the people you work with, professor. You want less of it, their autonomy and discretion has to be reduced and their acts have to be subject to review and correction by elements of the larger society as the larger society is less corrupt.

  5. This sort nonsense is leaving the majority with very little room to maneuver. Celebrating or otherwise enjoying certain features of a culture not traditional to Europeans will get the cultural appropriation flag thrown at you. You’re being a racist. Staying in your European cultural lane however will also get you labeled a racist. That’s right, Whites Only is making a comeback, one way or another.

  6. There is a political association in Virginia called The WOPS. WOP means With Out Papers. In days past it was a surname for Italians and usually Sicilians. But the new group protests with three ring file folder binders and they hold the binders open, show the empty three rings and shout: “We Are With Out Papters! ” Then they shout: “WOP, WOP, Bo bop, bananna fanna fo fop. WOP!”
    The group mainly gathered together because they were stuck on the internet and were paperless, had no ink pens, and no typewriters.

    1. There is a group of Sicilians who are talking about going after these “Fake WOPS”.

      1. There is another group in Virginia that hates the British. They formed a hate group which they call BritShits. They dress in Brit outfilts and cuss a lot in fake Brit accents.

  7. Dear Professor Turley, now some of these postings are worthy of the Gong Show treatment.

  8. The First Amendment allows me to dress any way I damn well please. If UVA, an arm of the Commonwealth of Virginia, doesn’t like it, those words render it powerless to stop me. Nor may it infringe on my right to associate with whomever I please. If the current trustees of Mr. Jefferson’s school retaliate, here’s hoping the fraternal organizations are in federal court that same day quoting, in their defense, the great sage of Monticello:

    “The diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.”
    ~Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801.

  9. For the “legal” aspects of this here is some information.
    The university is a “state” university and hence those who work there “are State actors”.
    The word “actor” does not refer to some movie or play but to the role of a human who is employed or directed to “act” on the behalf of the employer or entity. Those in the university who are involved in this censorship are State Actors.
    The State Actors can be sued in federal court for violation of the free speech and free association rights of those they have intimidated or harmed. This is pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 , also sections 1984, 1985 (conspiracy) and 1988.

    I have a right to free association. I can join some group of people who are expressing their speech rights and right to associate. A wearing of a flag on my shirt is an act of free speech. A wig can be an act of free speech and express my association with the other members of The Whig Party for example. Or The Dredlock Party. I do not have to be a Mexican to wear a zombrero.

    The University and all of the employees or agents thereof needs to be sued under the Civil Rights statutes. There are people conspiring to deprive the plainitffs of their civil right to free speech and association.

    Rules of evidence coincide with things like conspiracy. The hearsay rule does not apply if the agent of the party opponent told someone else “to go get those jerks with the zombreros on their heads and kick em out of school.”

    All those involved in the conspiracy can be sued for damages and punitive damages for the infliction of deprivation of First Amendment rights to free speech and free association. Or freedom of religion

    A class action can be set up and made a part of the suit. All members who are abused can join in the suit or the proceeds of the damages assessed.

    Attorneys fees can be sought and awarded for all of the time spent by the lawyers on behalf of the plaintiffs or the class of victims.

    The named defendants will have to pay.

    Call me to represent you today.

  10. How is it that Turner Classic Movies gets away with showing ” Holiday Inn” every year…..and more than once a season?
    Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds, and other cast members sing and dance in black face.

  11. Yesterday, I appropriated Panamanian culture by dining at such a restaurant. The waitress did not speak English so I talked to her in my broken Spanish. I appropriated the meal and her language.

    I happen to wonder if there is a “public domain” clause for cultural appropriation, where due to some arbitrary age, the item or idea becomes plunderable by the dominant culture.

  12. How was it “blackface” for the Virginia Attorney General to have dressed like Michael Jackson for a college dance contest in the 1980’s? Wasn’t Jackson white by the 80s? 🕺🏽

    1. I just spit up my morning coffee when I read your comment re: Jackson white in 80s.
      Thank you for that. The Force is strong in you


    2. HaHaHa! Good point, Kitty. If anything, Michael Jackson was in “whiteface” during the 1980s, and I don’t recall anyone condemning him as “racially insensitive.”

  13. According to WikiPedia [1], the earliest *verified* invention of the draisine, now called the “bicycle,” was by Baron Karl von Drais, a German. Those of you riding bicycles, particularly around American college campuses, have unashamedly culturally appropriated the German heritage – my heritage.

    You have no right – zero – to culturally appropriate the German heritage. You owe my culture a public apology.

    [1] History of the bicycle

  14. This investigation is completely meritless. The underlying foundation of what is alleged is not illegal and under the norms of society it there is no basis to an offense, considering a “reasonable” person considered from the average citizen, is not in the slightest put off by the frat’s activities.

    This type of action by the school is EXACTLY what I have been saying for years would happen to adults if our government had dominion over adult citizens as they do children under 18 who are enrolled in public school. Here, we have presumably the greek row population who is arguably all of the age of majority, yet they are third class citizens granted no freedom or liberty if it meets with arbitrary objections by officials.

    If the university officials instead tried to enforce this action against some random household in the ordinary sense the homeowner could tell them to pound sand and continue with the festival. There wouldn’t be a damn thing the school could do, and if they persisted the citizen could take legal action against them for barratry and harassment.

    The difference between the ordinary household is that their homeowner is considered a fully vested citizen who has rights and the students are viewed as subjects subordinate and without rights by petit tyrants of the college.

    If there is ever an example of what life in America would be like if we did not respect the Constitution, we only have to look at our universities for comparison.

  15. With these new rules, I am assuming that Native Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities must not be allowed to dress like Caucasians, right?
    So the next time I see a non-white person wearing, say, an Oxford shirt and loafers, I’m going to point and yell “Citizen’s arrest! Citizen’s arrest!”
    This might be fun. I’m in!

      1. I’m calling for a citizen’s arrest of Maxine Waters for appropriating white womens’ hair! And Kamala Harris as well. 💇🏾‍♀️

        1. A classic…..I wonder if those involved in making those early sitcoms ever dreamed that people would still be watching and enjoying them 55-65 years later.
          I think my favorite episodes ones were the ones when Ernest T. Bass would show up.

          1. Tom….oh yes. Loved that show..a Danny Thomas Show spin-off……even thoughThe Danny show wasn’t very funny. Andy’s show had superb writers, directors…..and Ernest T.! I tihnk he was a writer originally for Sid Caesar Show of Shows, working with Mel Brooks and Neil Simon and others.

            1. Howard Morris, who played Earnest T., did a lot of directing, too.
              He was actually a soft-spoken, mild manned little guy.
              I’ve seen the pilot episode of The Andy Griffith Show, which was when Danny Thomas went to Mayberry, Andy gave him a speeding ticket.
              Danny Thomas raises a big fuss and ends up in jail.
              The Danny Thomas Show wasn’t my favorite, but I liked the ones with Uncle Tenuos sp? showed up.

              1. Tom….Uncle Tanuse…..sp? “It’ssa hot in da boots” Hans Conried,….he was in a favorite film of mine when I was little called “Behave Yourself” …. a comedy. Hans was hilarious in it ….with Farley Granger, Shelley Winters. Very funny and released same year as Strangers on a Train…..hard to believe Granger was the same actor in those two films!

  16. Is there any way we could live in the here and now? I made some mistakes as a younger person and I have come to regard them as dumb. But that was then. As Barack so famously observed, “ I have evolved “. Well so has everyone else So grow up!

    1. Too late, Kay. Our bus was hijacked by the Left and driven to Neverland, where no one grows up.

  17. Seems like what I heard was freedom of thought, speech, publication, press,belief, religion, socialization, assembly and every other conceivable God-given and natural freedom per the 9th Amendment under an infinitesimal government that exists merely to facilitate that freedom. It’s really quite simple. Freedom and Self-Reliance. Obtaining other people’s private property (i.e. money) is just not in the Constitution. I’m not seeing morality or etiquette in there either. I think you’re talking about dictatorship; tyranny and oppression. Now that got George Washington and his boys all riled up.

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