By Olivia Krauth–
In a full Middleton Auditorium, President James Ramsey joined faculty and students to discuss diversity on campus today.
“Today, the stage is reserved for fighters,” Pan-African Studies chair Ricky Jones said, introducing Ramsey to the crowd of students, faculty and community members.
“This is not a ‘let anyone off the hook’ situation,” Jones said. “This is not that type of gathering. This is a gathering of truth.”
“We’ve hurt the very people we’re here to serve: the students,” Ramsey said, with an audibly trembling voice.
Three weeks ago, Ramsey got caught in a media firestorm after a photo of him and his staff dressed in stereotypical Mexican garb at a Halloween luncheon made headlines. The photo led to student protests and a letter from faculty asking Ramsey to do more.
Faculty member Claudio Maldonado, Vice Provost for Diversity Mordean Taylor-Archer and SGA President Victoria Allen were some of the people who joined the stage with Ramsey.
Law student Jesus Ibanez represented the Student Assembly Against Discrimination, which has led the protests against Ramsey.
“President Ramsey’s mistake was born out of a lack of knowledge,” Ibanez said. “He was not aware of the racist history towards Mexicans in this country, such as forced deportations.”
“‘Should the Mexicans been offended by what happened Halloween? It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, you need to ask the Mexicans.’ It’s not my place to decide what offends them,” Jones said.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the events happening on campuses across the nation,” Ibanez said. “Let me answer this right now: this is not Mizzou.”
Ibanez said the difference between U of L and Mizzou is that the president is working to correct the situation.
“We will hold you accountable every step of the way,” Ibanez said to Ramsey.
Chief of staff Kathleen Smith issued an apology within two hours of the photo, saying they would begin cultural sensitivity training “immediately.” As of today, this training is still being planned.
Ramsey issued a brief apology the next day, followed by a longer apology two weeks later. The latter outlined steps he would take to remedy the situation. Today, Ramsey reaffirmed his dedication to those steps, saying this will be a defining moment for U of L.
“It’s time for leaders to step up, not step down,” Ramsey said. “So I ask that you give me the opportunity to step up.”
“We learn, we move forward. That’s what we ask of our students, that’s what we ask of ourselves,” Jones said.
Photo by Olivia Krauth / The Louisville Cardinal