Fairfield U. Responds to ‘Ghetto Party’

Linda Conner Lambeck and Silvia Foster-Frau, CT Post, February 23, 2016

A “ghetto-themed” party hosted Saturday by Fairfield University students in off-campus housing has set off both an investigation and a call for more sensitivity on the sprawling, suburban campus.

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“The fact that there was even an idea to dress as ‘ghetto’ is an intrinsically perverted issue,” said Joe Harding, a Fairfield University junior from Philadelphia. “When a party has a theme, the participants are expected to wear a costume. In this case, the partygoers chose to wear clothing and accessories that portrayed their conceptualizations of what it means to be ghetto . . . Ghetto is not a term of endearment.” Harding called the event “despicable” and “disappointing.”

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After responding to social media posts and at least one picture allegedly taken at the party, on Monday Jennifer Anderson, the university’s vice president of marketing and communications, said officials are working with students and diversity officials to investigate.

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University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, in an email to the university community later Monday, said the theme of the reported party “perpetuated racial stereotypes that have no place in our community and only serve to offend and devalue people.”

The university’s Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs will hold extended evening hours to talk to students about the incident, von Arx said. In addition, the student government association was to hold an emergency meeting to plan a student forum on the subject.

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Carolyn Vermont, director of urban initiatives for Connecticut Against Gun Violence, is a Fairfield alumna and former university trustee. She called von Arx directly after seeing on social media what transpired and said he seem genuinely concerned.

“Whether it was insensitivity or a mean-spirited prank, it shows we have a lot of work to do,” Vermont said.

She said the incident did not surprise her.

“It’s symptomatic of an insensitivity to race across the country, not just at Fairfield University,” Vermont said.

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