An Open Letter to the Fairfield University Community

How do we respond to students’ insensitive party?

As a Fairfield University alumna and current Residential College mentor, I am deeply saddened by the fact that the media and even a few within the community are labeling Fairfield University as a racist institution as a result of a group of students throwing a “ghetto” themed party off-campus last weekend. The poor actions of a few students is not representative of the institution as a whole. We need to be careful about throwing the word “racist” to describe Fairfield University. It’s a slap in the face and a complete disregard of the tremendous service this community has done and continues to do which garners little attention. It is the negative and crass actions of a few which has attracted the most headlines and thus by association we are all made guilty. We should not allow the media to write the story of who we are.

What these students did off-campus is not part of the Jesuit tradition. It goes against the very values of our community even if the students meant it as harmless fun. It was in poor taste and wrong.

What do we do?

Let’s not allow high emotions to dictate how we respond to this. We need to discuss solutions and execute them in a meaningful way. I am proud to see our community come together to address this issue through an open dialogue, which is a step in the right direction.

There are those who have voiced their opinion that the university needs more diversity. I think this is just one aspect in solving the problem but it’s not enough. It seems empathy is what these group of students who participated in this type of party lack. Simply labeling them as “racists” isn’t going to get at the root of the problem. It is through service to the very community they ridiculed that there might be hope for them to truly see the error in their actions. This is a teachable moment that starts with empathy. Finally, there are two questions we must ask. Are these students willing to learn empathy and do we as a community have the patience to teach it to them?