Arthur R. Jackson, Ed.D
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
April 17, 2014 - On Friday, April 11 the UNC Charlotte fraternity and sorority community hosted their annual Air Band Dance performances as part of Greek Week activities. This was a student sponsored event held on campus, with no alcohol involved. These activities are facilitated by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
Student groups participating in the Air Band Dance event were allowed to pick their own themes for eight-minute performances. Sigma Kappa sorority members chose “Disney Dancing with the Princesses” as their theme. They showcased scenes from Snow White, Cinderella, Little Mermaid and Pocahontas.
Regrettably, as part of the Pocahontas dance, the dancers wore Native clothing and displayed tribal-like markings on their faces and arms. The symbolic representations proved offensive to Native Americans in North Carolina and nationally, some of whom have contacted the University or the Sigma Kappa sorority.
We apologize. Although we have every reason to believe that the sorority intended no offense, we consider this a teachable moment for them and for our entire campus community to deepen our sensitivity on issues of race and culture, and to ensure that we maintain a welcoming campus environment for all people.
The University is reviewing the performance and the event, and considering how we might work to ensure that such performances in the future avoid unintended offense to people within and beyond our campus community. Likewise, while our staff sought primarily to encourage a respectful and entertaining event for everyone, we were not attentive enough to the offensive potential of the portrayal of Native Americans.
UNC Charlotte is recognized as a leader in developing a campus culture and atmosphere that highly values diversity and inclusion. In 2013, the University was honored with the Belk Innovation in Diversity Award. In 2007, the University initiated the Chancellor’s Diversity Fund to support faculty, staff, and student initiatives promoting the daily value of diversity in the intellectual life of the campus. The University also maintains a cabinet-level Council on University Community, which is charged with leading diversity efforts on campus. More information on UNC Charlotte initiatives related to diversity and inclusion is posted online.
Many people at UNC Charlotte work hard every day to ensure an inclusive, non-discriminatory campus. When we realize that we have fallen short, we must pay closer attention and recommit to doing better.