Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Students Want More Than Apology from President Who Wore ‘Mexican’ Costume

(Flickr/Wendy)

After hosting a controversial Mexican-themed Halloween luncheon where staff members were photographed wearing sombreros and holding maracas, the president of the University of Louisville met with Latino student groups to apologize.

The Courier-Journal, which published the photo on its website on Oct. 29, reports President James Ramsey’s office has promised to implement diversity training and take other measures in the wake of outcries of racism. But students — and faculty members — say they want more than a “sorry” from the administration.

Demands include specific staff training requirements and the removal of a monument to the Confederacy located near the university.

Sarah Alvarez, a student who was part of the small, private meeting with Ramsey Tuesday told the university’s student newspaper she felt the president didn’t want to listen to the students’ concerns. 

Jesus Ibanez told The Louisville Cardinal he felt disrespected. “My role during the meeting was to give him a history lesson of why the Mexican garb he depicted was very stereotypical, and he kept interrupting me. President Ramsey called into question how our moms raised us asking, ‘Didn’t your moms raise you to be more respectful?’” 

Ramsey previously apologized via email for the “recent incident and any pain that it may have caused” after the news spread on social media with the hashtag #CostumeGate, made national headlines, and sparked protests outside his office. 

“The takeaway?” one student journalist wrote. “Don’t dress like a culture. They aren’t costumes; they’re people.”

Ramsey’s chief of staff, Kathleen Smith, said in an email, “We pledge to continue to work together to promote an environment that values all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, country of origin, immigration status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

But faculty members say this is just the latest in a string of incidents that have made them lose confidence in Ramsey’s leadership. The university is in the midst of a sex scandal alleging basketball players used an escort service to hire strippers and prostitutes for on-campus parties. 

Courier-Journal reporter Chris Kenning writes that more than 40 faculty members have signed an open letter to Ramsey, which notes that “negative publicity has gone international” and, while not intended to cause harm, the incident was “only one of a drumbeat of crises that have embarrassed the university and made many ashamed to be associated with it.”  

“This is just the most recent thing,” said one professor. ”It’s built up. And I don’t see any accountability.”