Students at three colleges in the last week have faced criticism over ethnic or racial themes or costumes at parties:
Randolph-Macon College officials are investigating a fraternity party at which some students dressed either as "illegal immigrants" or "border control agents," and at which the latter group tried to "catch" the former, WWBT NBC 12 reported. Mark Heideman, a member of Kappa Alpha, which hosted the party, said that "it was definitely not meant to be racist whatsoever."
Two white students at Lee University have apologized for going to a rap-themed party in blackface and with T-shirts featuring forms of the n-word, WTVC News 9 reported.
California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo is investigating an off-campus party held by a fraternity and a sorority with the theme "Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos," The Tribune News of San Luis Obispo reported. The men dressed in colonial attire while the women wore scantily clad costumes with Native American themes. One fraternity member (whose house was not involved) told the Tribune News that the party wasn't meant to be offensive. “Personally, I don’t think it was meant to be racist,” he said, given that many Greek parties involve "guy-and-girl" themes. “It’s unfair,” he said. “We are taught that Thanksgiving is Pilgrims and Indians.”
One college unexpectedly found that female engineering students responded particularly well to its project-based learning approach. Experts say the curriculum could help attract and retain women in the STEM fields.
The Black Student Union at the University of Michigan has urged its members to describe the issues they face via Twitter and the hashtag #BBUM (for "Being Black at the University of Michigan") is generating discussion at Michigan and elsewhere. Among the tweets: BBUM "is working in study groups and your answer to the question always requires a double check before approval" and "is being the only black person in class, and having other races look at you to be the spokesperson whenever black history is brought up" and "I'm afraid to wear my natural hair ... because I don't want to deal with the questions." The university responded on the hashtag with: "Thanks for engaging in this conversation. We’re listening, and will be sure all of your voices are heard."
This month a black student at the University of California at Los Angeles set off a debate about race with his YouTube video about the experience of being black there.
After distancing campus administrators from a "catch an illegal immigrant" game put on by the University of Texas at Austin's Young Conservatives of Texas chapter, UT President Bill Powers supported the group's decision to cancel the event Tuesday. "The University of Texas at Austin honors the right of free speech for all students," Powers said in a statement. "We welcome the Young Conservatives of Texas' decision to cancel Wednesday's event and look forward to the group being part of a thoughtful campus discussion about immigration."
The event, which drew criticism online, was planned for Wednesday. To raise awareness of illegal immigration, the event organizer said, students would search the campus for people wearing clothes that said "illegal immigrant," then apprehend them to win a $25 gift card.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Young Conservatives of Texas chapter says its planned “catch an illegal immigrant game” is designed to raise awareness about illegal immigration, but the idea caused a stir online Monday. Planned for Wednesday afternoon, the game involves students running around campus to apprehend “several people walking around” with the words “illegal immigrant” displayed on their clothing.
“Any UT student who catches one of these 'illegal immigrants' and brings them back to our table will receive a $25 gift card,” the event Facebook page says. “The purpose of this event is to spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration, and how it affects our everyday lives.” More than 220 people have confirmed their plans to attend on Facebook, but at least one commenter said she only “joined” the event so she could write comments opposing it.
Texas President Bill Powers said in a statement that the event is "completely out of line" with the university's values. "Our nation continues to grapple with difficult questions surrounding immigration," Powers said. "I ask YCT to be part of that discussion but to find more productive and respectful ways to do so that do not demean their fellow students."
Bob Jones University, an evangelical institution that bars any sex outside of heterosexual marriage, devoted last week's four chapel services to gay issues. The decision to do so prompted much speculation and debate on social media. Randy Page, director of public relations at the university, said via email that the decision to focus on same-sex attraction came at the request of students. During one of the services, Stephen Jones, president of Bob Jones, told the students about a "totally inappropriate letter" received by one student who may be gay. Jones told "the student body that the sentiments expressed represented nothing of the spirit of Christ and would not be accepted here," Page said.
BJUnity, a group promoting equity for gay students at Bob Jones, called the chapel services "a farce," and noted that the university has never apologized for hostile statements made in the past by university leaders.
More than 1,000 people rallied on the Lehigh University campus to protest vandalism found at the multicultural dorm Wednesday night, Lehigh Valley Live reported. Early Wednesday morning, someone threw eggs at the residence hall and spray-painted derogatory terms on and around the buildings. The rally was led by a student group calling itself From Beneath the Rug, which formed this year to "represent and fight for marginalized groups on campus and people who feel like their voices aren't and should be heard," one member said.
Some students at Washington University in St. Louis are condemning a Halloween costume, photos of which have circulated online, showing students as U.S. soldiers standing over a student who is playing a Muslim, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The student playing the Muslim has a fake beard and turban, and critics say the image perpetuates stereotypes.