An off-campus “ghetto-themed” party held by students from Fairfield University in Connecticut has prompted an investigation and discussions concerning race and a lack of diversity at the school.
Witnesses said that party-goers at the beach house event were wearing baggy pants, gold chains, corn rows and costume baby bumps.
“The fact that there was even an idea to dress as ‘ghetto’ is an intrinsically perverted issue,” Fairfield junior Joe Harding told the Connecticut Post. “When a party has a theme, the participants are expected to wear a costume. In this case, the party-goers chose to wear clothing and accessories that portrayed their conceptualizations of what it means to be ghetto. Ghetto is not a term of endearment.”
While some students were unhappy with the event, others said it was not unusual for the school, adding that they have seen acts of racism before on the school’s campus, writes Kristin Hussey for The New York Times.
Still others said that they did not believe the party to be offensive at all. “It’s like Halloween. (I) dressed as a gangster (when I was four),” Brian Mason sophomore said. “Nobody said anything then.”
University officials first heard about the party from photos and posts found on social media, many of which told stories that students in attendance had worn brown makeup and “perpetuated racial stereotypes that have no place in our community,” according to a statement from the university president, the Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx.
Von Arx said the university has spoken to many of the students at the school to ask how the incident has made them feel. Some, he said, say that it reflects conditions in existence on the campus that put a stop to efforts to create a positive atmosphere that includes all students, writes Lindsey Bever for The Washington Post.
In a statement, the school said that as a Jesuit and Catholic university it celebrates diversity and works to engage students in conversations that support and increase their understanding of other cultures. In addition, they say they try to ensure that all students understand they need to be upstanding citizens, not only with each other, but with everyone within the community. An investigation is currently ongoing into the situation with appropriate actions to be taken as soon as possible.
Jennifer Anderson, the university’s vice president of marketing and communications, said all students are required to follow the same code of conduct whether they live on campus or not.
Carolyn Vermont, director of urban initiatives for Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said she was not surprised by the party. She said it simply showed the work that still needed to be done to curb the insensitivity toward race that is occurring not just on that campus, but across the entire country.
Fairfield University is a small, private institution in Connecticut with about 4,800 undergraduate and graduate students. The school is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities across the country. About 15% of its undergraduate student population is African American, Hispanic, Asian or Native American.