By Olivia Krauth–
Some U of L faculty members are teaming up by responding to President James Ramsey’s Halloween costume in an open letter to Ramsey.
Philosophy professor Avery Kolers sent the copy of the letter to faculty today, asking people to join in signing it.
“Truth be told, this latest incident is only one of a drumbeat of crises that have embarrassed the university and made many ashamed to be associated with it. Years of effort – and millions of dollars spent – to painstakingly build the University’s reputation in academia and standing in the community have been overshadowed,” Kolers said in the open letter.
According to the email, the letter is currently signed by Pan-African studies department chair Ricky Jones and history department chair Tracy K’Meyer, amongst others.
Kolers said the letter began as a way to support faculty who have already spoken out about the photo, as well as a way to show “outrage and frustration” in a “pattern of scandals and misjudgments.”
“We thought that the harm of the photo went beyond the bare idea that some might take offense, and the misjudgment has nothing to do with the lack of intent to harm or offend,” Kolers said in an email to the Cardinal. “So it was important to explain why the lack of intent is not exculpatory.”
Last Thursday, a photo of Ramsey and his staff in stereotypical Mexican garb at a staff Halloween luncheon made national news, being labeled as “racist” and “insensitive” by some. Offended students began protesting on Friday, and are supposed to meet with Ramsey tomorrow to discuss their demands.
K’Meyer has been outspoken on the issue since then, posting her own letter to Ramsey on the students’ Facebook group page.
“I felt it was important to have a joint faculty response because I found the administration’s response to date to be inadequate,” K’Meyer said in an email to the Cardinal. “I am not surprised that there is this much negative reaction to the decision of Dr. Ramsey and his staff to dress in costumes that perpetuate negative stereotypes. There has been a lot of national conversation about the inappropriateness of doing that sort of thing, especially at a time of political stigmatizing of Mexican immigrants. I am extremely surprised that the president did not foresee this kind of reaction. ”
“The harm of this incident is not in the intentions of the people who dressed up in stereotypical garb, but in the effect it has on students, employees and other members of the community. And the effect is not limited to those whose stereotypical dress and comportment were ridiculed,” Kolers’ letter said. “Irrespective of intent, this incident appears to demonstrate that efforts to foster and value diversity, and to achieve equity, are mere window-dressing – that the real message has simply not gotten through to those whose decisions determine the future of the University.”
Kolers hopes to send the letter to Ramsey by the end of the week.
Photo by Wade Morgen / The Louisville Cardinal