The last five days have been a storm of allegations of racism and disrespect after President James Ramsey and staff donned “Mexican” costumes at a recent Halloween event. Ramsey has since sent an email apology to the university community. Students, faculty and staff gathered again today in response to the controversy surrounding President Ramsey.
Today, eight students representing the diverse student body met with Ramsey to discuss the issue, but emerged angry and disappointed by the exchange. Media, including The Cardinal, were banned from the conversation.
The student representatives said their voices were not heard inside the meeting. According to Sarah Alvarez, “Ramsey did not want to listen to us, and he was not interested in the context of what was going on. I feel very let down by the leader of this university.”
Jesus Ibanez echoed Alvarez’s reaction. “I feel very disrespected by the president. 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?'” Ibanez said.
A group of over 60 students, faculty and staff rallied with the representatives, accompanying them from the SAC into Grawemeyer Hall. During the march across campus students chanted, “The people united will never be defeated!”
Once in Grawemeyer, the group stood in protest outside of the president’s office while the representatives met with President Ramsey.
Among those protesting was Mickey Vincent, who held a sign that read “I’m Latino, I’m transgender and I’m not a costume.” Vincent wrote a letter in response to Ramsey’s photo that has since been posted on Facebook. In his letter he addressed the struggles he has been through as a transgendered Latino and the joke Ramsey has made of his culture.
When asked why he was there Vincent stated that he wanted to “raise awareness for the struggles diverse students at U of L face.”
Luis Arduz expressed a similar purpose for being at the protest. “There is little support for Latino students on campus. One person cannot do it on their own. We need to build support for the Latino community.”
Students were not the only ones to advocate during the protest. Dawn Heinecken and Jo Ann Griffin, both professors of women’s and gender studies, were also in attendance at the event.
“It’s absolutely important students voices get heard. I want them to have a larger voice in how the university is operated,” said Heinecken, as she stood with the students.
Those rallying may be outraged at how the meeting was conducted. But they say they will not be deterred. Members of the Student Association Against Discrimination will meet again Thursday at noon to discuss further action and bolster support.
Just as the protestors were talking to media, the university issued this release to the reporters:
“President James Ramsey met with a coalition of Latino students and others this afternoon at 2 p.m. for the purposes of issuing a personal apology and to express his willingness to engage in further dialogue with the campus community. The president also expressed his interest in continuing conversations and offered several options for future meetings.”
Photos courtesy / Brina Joiner