As the University of Pittsburgh’s “Year of Diversity” rolls on, the university’s chapter of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity is causing concern on campus with their new fundraiser.
The “Elimination of Prejudice Wall,” set up outside of a dormitory complex, is designed to allow students to write slurs and offensive language on it. Students will have the opportunity to break down the wall themselves as a fundraiser for the Elimination of Prejudice Foundation on Thursday.
Students have already covered the four-foot-high wall with derogatory slurs. Anybody passing would be able to read some of the slurs but may not understand what the purpose is unless they ask a member of the fraternity themselves. The jarring nature of the wall’s content, which includes highly racist and homophobic terms, is the chief reason for the controversy surrounding the wall.
While the intent of the fundraiser matches the university’s theme of diversity and inclusion, some students have responded to the actual execution of this event with skepticism.
Zuri Kent-Smith, a sophomore who was recently elected VP of the Student Government Board, says that, while the intentions of the fraternity were in the right place, it could have been done in a better way.
“They could have [used] microaggressions that people have faced or experiences people have had,” Kent-Smith said, adding that everyday experiences are more indicative of the type of racism that students experience than slurs would be.
However, despite his issues with the specific methods that the fraternity is using, Kent-Smith supports the group’s ambition. Referring to the mixed reception of the wall, he says, “I know they wouldn’t have done that maliciously.”
The “Elimination of Prejudice” program is a key aspect of the Pi Lambda Phi mission, according to current member Nick Robb. On the national organization’s website, the Elimination of Prejudice program is emphasized as the fraternity’s foremost effort of service.
“This is the reason we joined this fraternity,” Robb says. “What we hope to accomplish by this is not to spread hate–we are trying to create a common ground for people to understand each other on.”
While he acknowledges the potentially shocking nature of the wall, Robb states that the most important aspect of the whole event is that they are tearing down the wall as symbolism for tearing down prejudice. In addition to letting students write on the wall, the Pi Lambda Phi brothers are handing out information about the purpose of the event and its history within the fraternity.
The Pi Lambda Phi fundraiser is set against the backdrop of Pitt’s “Year of Diversity.”Since the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, special events have been held on campus to focus on the concept of diversity, such as guest lectures and roundtable discussions with the dean of students.
While there seems to be the potential for poor publicity for the “Year of Diversity,” it is quite possible that a successful fundraiser on tear-down day will turn this controversial moment into an applaudable one.