Fairfield University investigating reports of 'ghetto party'

Students at Fairfield University apparently hosted a “ghetto party” sometime last weekend, said to have included racist costumes and stereotypes.

Fairfield University acknowledged the party in a short press release Monday.

“Fairfield University has learned that over the weekend, students who currently live off-campus allegedly hosted a culturally insensitive party at one of the residences. University administration is working with students and diversity officers to investigate the incident."

The racially insensitive party, and subsequent images, were first brought to the public’s attention by community advocate and freelance journalist Mercy A. Quaye, of New Haven.

“The requested attire to the party was to come in your most ghetto attire,” she told HAN Network Monday afternoon, referencing conversations with Fairfield University students. “[They were told to] dress as black people and Spanish people holding forties. Some were in brown face. Some [appeared] pregnant, while smoking cigarettes.”

One unverified image showed a student dressed as pregnant women holding a cigarette with the caption “who’s the daddy??? Anyone’s guess.”

Another unverified screenshot that appears to come from a Facebook group titled Fairfield University Class of 2017 shows one student, Dan Radel, writing sarcastically about backlash against the “ghetto party” he attended.

“I wore a hot dog costume to this party and now feel that my actions have caused emotional harm to all of the hot dog community. Specifically I would like to apologize to Mr. Oscar Meyer as I did not mean to portray your weiner in a negative fashion,” one part of the post reads.

Radel ended his post with the hashtags #hotdogsmatter, and #peopledont, both apparent references to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Quaye said she was tipped off to the party’s theme by a friend who knows she is passionate about black culture and stories which speak to race relations.

“What this shows us is that we all have a little more work to do, around what’s appropriate when it comes to race,” Quaye said.

While not an excuse for the party’s theme, Quaye said sensitivity to racial differences can be easier for people of color to understand and practice, she said, because they live in a social structure which demands it.

“It is easy for people of color to understand these concepts and practice sensitivity, because they do it every day,” she said. “Its called code-switching. It’s the idea that anyone, not just someone of color, would have to alter their personality or culture to fit in. For instance, minority groups often drop very important parts of their cultural identity to fit in an academic setting.”

Quaye said she hopes for a real-world response to the incident from Fairfield University, rather than the “run-of-the-mill” response.

“We see this behavior on a lot of campuses, and there is typically a run-of-the-mill response and statement stating the university will launch an investigation into the event and the school’s culture.

“But, what would satisfy me, is if the university implemented a curriculum that was mandatory for all students. [Fairfield needs] a course focused on race. A freshman-seminar type course would satisfy me. We have been going in the right direction, but some of these steps at a lot of universities can be taken a lot more boldly.”