A LETTER TO PROJECT WILDCAT: RACIST BEHAVIOR LAST WEEK LACKS EXCUSE
On April 10th after 1 AM, three of us walked North on Sheridan. As we approached Kellogg, we noticed a group of white students, about five men and one woman, gathered around the large pine tree across from the building. Getting closer, we noticed that these students had war paint on their faces. As all of the white men urinated on the tree, clearly inebriated from their behavior and loudness, we walked towards the white woman standing offside to inquire what was going on. She let us know that they were all a part of PWild, the freshman pre-orientation group known as Project Wildcat. They were just partaking in “tradition” and we “shouldn’t mind them.” But we were in disbelief after witnessing such a display of disrespect that included the adoption of this racialized style of face painting. Trying to process what had just happened, we wondered how it was that these students had been drunk and disorderly on campus for a long time without being approached by NUPD.
After relating what we had experienced to other friends, we learned that groups of white students had been seen running all around south campus in loud mobs over a period extending at least between 11 PM and 1 AM, but likely longer. Many of these students were also seen in blatant possession of alcohol. Several women of color walking home through the sorority quad were confronted by a group of loud, intoxicated white students in ‘war paint’ (one of them carrying a can of beer). When one of the women accidentally bumped into one of them, they immediately began to make comments and take an offensive stance towards the women. Many people of color, particularly women and gender-nonconforming people, experience fear when walking around campus at night. In this instance that fear was exacerbated by the fear that these intoxicated white students would take their sense of entitlement to a new level, particularly as the ‘war paint’ was understood by at least one student as both racist and threatening.
By the end of the night, another student of color was harassed by a group of PWild students while guarding the Rock. The group also informed this student that the ‘tradition’ they were partaking in was a yearly scavenger hunt, against the University’s Code of Conduct. We posted a Facebook status warning other students about the encounters, and we received an email from the PWild Steering Committee the following day.