By Seamus Brennan
Members of the Holy Cross community have experienced difficulties pertaining to issues of multiculturalism and diversity since late August when the 2016-2017 academic year began. In early September, several off-campus house parties with controversial cultural themes were met with criticism by students and faculty alike, prompting several campus organizations to take action.
During the weekend of Sept. 9, parties with controversial themes, including “White Trash Bash,” “Margaritas for Senoritas,” and other student-picked themes were held off-campus. On Friday, Sept. 16, MEChA de Holy Cross, the Holy Cross chapter of the national Mexican-American student organization, displayed posters around campus that read, “Today is Mexico’s Independence Day, thinking of having another party?” as a form of protest against the fiesta-themed parties that took place the previous weekend. Laura Garcia ’19, treasurer of MEChA, said, “After finding out about the party, we realized that Mexico’s Independence Day was that upcoming Friday, so we decided to hang up posters confronting those who had hosted and attended the party.”
Robert Jones, associate director for multicultural education at the College, also expressed frustration regarding the culture of themed-parties on campus. “In my position, I feel that identity-based themed-parties do not have a healthy place on college campuses or workplaces. More often than not, they are based on identities that have been historically oppressed and marginalized at one point or another in our history. The fact that our students are now speaking out against these type of parties and social gatherings indicates to me that they are waking up, empowering themselves, and finding their voice.”
Jones echoes Garcia’s desire for a more culturally aware student body and tolerant campus atmosphere. “It is unacceptable that students feel it is okay to wear what they think is my culture for a night, while the people who identify with that particular culture wear [that] stigma for life,” said Garcia. “I believe that a lot of students, both Mexican and non-Mexican alike, were upset by it.”
As a result of these conflicts, the President’s office held a Listening Session on the topic of Campus Climate on Monday, Sept. 19, and the Office of Student Affairs hosted a discussion on themed parties on Wednesday, Sept. 21. According to an email sent to the Holy Cross community by Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president, “This and future sessions will provide opportunities for members of the community to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas and speak about their experiences on our campus and in our world. My hope is that these serve not only to identify issues we need to address as a community, but also, importantly, as a space for conversation and dialogue which can lead all of us to a better understanding of each other and how our words and actions can impact each other.”
Ultimately, the Holy Cross administration is committed to fostering an intellectually open campus culture that nurtures a respectful, engaged academic and social environment.