University of Louisville President James Ramsey, lower right, and his wife, Jane, hosted a stereotypical Halloween party at the president’s historic mansion Wednesday. Jane Ramsey handed out the mustaches and sombreros because she loves Halloween, she told the local newspaper. University officials apologized Thursday after an outrage.
University of Louisville President James Ramsey wore a sombrero and a rainbow-striped poncho at a stereotypical Halloween party for his staff Wednesday.
Ramsey’s wife Jane Ramsey gave her husband and at least 15 staffers hats, bushy mustaches and veils that mimicked bygone Hollywood depictions of Mexican bandits and their outlaw lovers, The Courier-Journal of Louisville reported.
The group posed for a picture while wearing the garb and holding up maracas during a luncheon at Amelia Place, the president’s university-owned mansion. Ramsey’s chief of staff issued an apology Thursday after the photo showed up online in a Courier-Journal story about the historic property and prompted an outrage.
“I was appalled,” said freshman Leonardo Salinas. “It’s not just offensive to Mexicans; it’s offensive to the immigrant community as a whole. Someone thought, ‘Oh, this is a good idea.’ How did it not click in anybody’s mind that it was a very bad idea?”
Salinas and other members of the Louisville community shared their disgust with university officials, said Sarah Nuñez, the director of the school’s office of Hispanic and Latino initiatives.
“Some students shared that they felt this was degrading to them, and disrespectful,” Nuñez said. “They feel hurt. They feel like their trust was broken.”
So-called “Mexican bandit” costumes show up for sale online for as little as $ 20. Past images like the Frito-Lay Frito Bandito, the cartoon mouse Speedy Gonzalez and the robber gang who said “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges” in the 1948 film “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” fed the stereotype.
The school is already facing allegations from a former escort that a basketball coach hired her to arrange sex and strippers for prosepective recruits.
“The bandito is dirty, irrational, treacherous, and violent,” two North Carolina-based professors wrote in a 1998 paper on mass media depictions of Latinos. They noted that a female character shown as a “half-breed harlot” who was a “slave to her sexuality” often accompanied the bandits of early Westerns.
University officials said that they “made a mistake and are very sorry” in the statement from Kathleen Smith, Ramsey’s chief of staff. She promised “a series of campus conversations” around racial tolerance.
“This event shows we have much more to learn about our community.” she said. “Our office will institute immediate training on diversity and racial equality issues.”
Allegations that a former assistant basketball coach hired an escort to arrange strippers and sex for prospective recruits have already rocked the public university. The former escort’s claims in her book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen” has prompted multiple investigations and should have had Ramsey on alert, editor-in-chief Olivia Krauth wrote in The Louisville Cardinal.
“As the president of a university, I would expect more,” she wrote in the student newspaper. “As the president of a university currently in the middle of a scandal in the national news, I would expect even more than that. I would expect discretion. I would expect thought and research into whether or not this is considered offensive.”
She continued, “Frankly, I would expect more creativity in costume selection. But I guess my expectations are too high for Ramsey.”
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