College is a time to to expand horizons, push boundaries, determine what your comfort zone is—and push a little beyond it.
Or, for one New Orleans fraternity, it's a time to build a wall around themselves (literally), tag it with not-so-subtle xenophobic catchphrases, and watch in helpless confusion as members of the larger campus community turn out to tear that shit down.
On Apr. 7, the brothers of Tulane University's Kappa Alpha house began erecting a giant sandbag wall around an off-campus house, part of an annual tradition leading up to the organization's "Old South" formal ball, reports New Orleans' Times Picayune. However, this year, the group chose to emblazon their makeshift blockade with GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's name, and his now-infamous campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."
Predictably, people got pretty pissed.
In a post shared widely across social media, Ana De Santiago, an admin on the Facebook group for Tulane's GENTE Latino student organization, writes:
As part of Kappa Alpha Order’s (KA) annual tradition, the fraternity at Tulane University decided to build a wall around their house; however, this time it was a wall filled with connotations of hate and ignorance. These connotations most directly mocked the experiences of Latino immigrants and workers throughout our nation. By writing Trump in large, red letters across the “wall,” KA changed what was a tradition of building a wall into a tradition of constructing a border, symbolizing separation and xenophobia
University spokesperson Mike Strecker explained to the Times-Picayune that Kappa Alpha had included the Trump-ism as "satire." And in a statement to that publication, KA national assistant executive director for advancement Jesse Lyons explained:
Our chapter takes KA's values of gentlemanly conduct very seriously. This respect extends to every student of Tulane and every member of the broader community. The comment was written on a makeshift wall on our private property, normally used for a game of capture the flag, to mock the ideologies of a political candidate. This had a unintended negative effect and as such it has been dismantled.
Regardless of the frat's intent, the dismantling referenced by Lyons appears to have taken place at the hands of the campus community at large, who reportedly turned out out to tear the wall down themselves. In video posted to YouTube, Kappa Alpha brothers are shown looking on as their "Trump" boarder is taken down, piece by piece, by individuals reportedly identified as members of the Tulane football team.
A Change.org petition supporting those who helped take down Kappa Alpha's wall has garnered nearly 800 signatures. Directed toward administrators at Tulane, it reads, in part:
This wall, although a tradition carried on by Kappa Alpha for many years, has been a source of aggression towards students of colour on this campus, and this year, with the addition of the labels "Trump" and "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN," has become overtly threatening towards Muslim and Latino students. Although Kappa Alpha has agreed to make changes to traditions that have previously discomforted students of colour, especially Black students, this wall and its labels prove that these promises were only superficial.
As the petition notes, this is not Kappa Alpha's first brush with racially-tinged controversy. In 2010 the fraternity ordered members to refrain from dressing in Confederate themed attire for their Old South formal, a tradition which, in years past, had garnered complaints across multiple campuses. On its website, the group cites confederate general Robert E. Lee as its "spiritual founder."
On Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a report detailing how the rhetoric of the 2016 election cycle has affected schoolrooms around the country. Titled "The Trump Effect, " the study is an overview of an informal survey of nearly 2,000 elementary and high school teachers, and while not scientific, it paints a picture of an educational system impacted by the increasingly hostile rhetoric of the presidential campaigns.
Suffice it to say, the Trump Effect doesn't seem limited to K–12.