The Collegian
Thursday, February 29, 2024

UR community members condemn racism and cultural appropriation during Halloween

<p>Students walking in the Forum.</p>

Students walking in the Forum.

University of Richmond community members gathered over the past week to express outrage over multiple students who wore racist costumes mocking Mexican and Chinese people and depicting a person getting deported. 

“If you hear my voice quiver, just know it’s been a lot emotionally,” senior Lizeth Ramirez said. Ramirez, co-president Solidarity Organization for Latin(e/x) Students, was one of the many community members who spoke at a listening session organized by SOLS. 

The listening session was held at the Multicultural Space on Nov. 3 night. Roughly 80 students, faculty and staff attended the event. Silence, applauses of support and laughter filled the room. 

On Oct. 29, a group of UR students dressed in ponchos and sombreros, depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture, according to videos obtained by The Collegian. The students were confronted at the Heilman Dining Center by four members of SOLS. 

Ramirez said she was stunned to see the students dressed in the costumes so publicly.  She contacted co-president and junior Samantha Nava. Nava said she rushed from her residence hall to the third room of the dining hall, where Ramirez, other SOLS members and the seven students in costumes were seated at their respective tables. 

“The pictures angered me, but seeing it in person was like a totally different type of anger and hurt,” Nava said. 

Meanwhile, sophomores Selena Deng, Ashley Wilson and their friends sat at the back of the third room, watching the events unfold, they said. Wilson and Deng’s friend called the UR Police Department after seeing the students in costume. 

Nava and Ramirez, along with two SOLS members confronted the seven students dressed in costumes, according to the video. Nava said the students confronted looked shocked at why anybody would approach them. 

The students left before URPD and Jacob Lowman, coordinator for residence life and housing, came to the dining hall, according to the video. Lowman came in response to a bias incident report call, Deng and Wilson said. 

While the dining hall was scheduled to close for the night, Nava, Ramirez and the members of SOLS stayed and talked with UPRD and Lowman until approximately 8:50 p.m. Nava and Ramirez said they were explaining the incident while holding back tears. 

Since then, numerous incidents of racist Halloween costumes and activities have been reported by students during the week, including students enacting deportation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, students dressed as "Chinese rice farmers" and more, according to student reports. 

The series of incidents prompted several responses from UR administration, faculty and student groups. 

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On Oct. 31, Steve Bisese, vice president for student development, wrote in an email to the campus community to be mindful of what costume to wear during Halloween and to not wear costumes narrowing a culture to a stereotype. 

Deng said she and sophomore Sanjna Kaul have since sent out email templates to students to respond to Bisese’s email for not directly addressing the incidents on Saturday. Additionally, Kaul and Deng have emailed faculty from different academic departments to issue a statement addressing the incidents of the weekend, show support for students who have been harmed by the incidents and address the issues appropriately in class. 

Executive Vice President and Provost Jeffery Legro emailed faculty on Nov. 2 and

along with Bisese, emailed the UR community Friday, stating several incidents had been brought to the administration’s attention, and that they were working to better understand the facts of these situations and the impact on members of the community. 

“The white people here can go and be students and have fun. Just exist,” said Nava. “They don't have to worry about this. Yeah, that's something we can't even do.” 

Ramirez said she was working with the Virginia Student Power Network, where she interned this summer, to create a more transparent bias process at UR. Ramirez and junior Jordan Jones have organized a march and sit-in, they said. The march and sit-in will be at noon on Friday, Nov. 11 in response to Halloween costumes, the racist altercation between students and a delivery driver on Sept. 3 and other acts of racially motivated incidents on campus, Ramirez said. 

Contact international editor Ananya Chetia

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