November 7, 2005

The Ghetto party is simply an insensitive act of the few

By now, everyone has heard about the now-infamous “Ghetto” party. Of course there have been dozens of editorials written on the event, but I think all of them have missed the real crux of this issue. All seem to focus on matters of race. But the larger issue at play has nothing to do with race, a lack of diversity at this university, or members of the administration doing their job incorrectly. The real matter is that when the student body is given as much autonomy as we enjoy, insensitive students will mess up. But is the freedom we are given worth an occasional offense? Absolutely.

The freedom we are given at this university is extraordinary. Unlike our counterparts elsewhere, our lives are rarely encroached upon, even if we live on-campus. This laissez-faire philosophy is one of the defining aspects of this university and it extends far past the policy on parties and drinking. We are entrusted with making nearly all our own decisions, and we are allowed to do so in a safe and forgiving environment.

But there is a trade off here. If I am given so much freedom, so is the insensitive jerk down the hall. This seems to be what happened with the “Ghetto” party. Some students thought something was funny that was not for others. But this is an inevitable consequence of having the autonomy we love.

The most prominent “solution” to the “Ghetto” party “problem” would be for a paternalistic approach to parties by the university. But if party themes started to be vigorously overseen how would the “White Trash” and “Pimps and Hos” parties that seem offensive but are well taken be distinguished from the “Ghetto” party? It would all become ridiculous and we ought to thank the University for not stepping into the fray and punishing any of those involved, nor promising future action in such cases.

The other frequently suggested “solution” to the problem is that the University should increase the proportion of minorities in the college. I think this “solution” is silly because it presupposes that added racial diversity would destroy insensitivity. Perhaps the strongest indictment of this diversity argument is the annual news that Pro-Israel posters were defaced, despite ample Jewish representation in this university.

The insensitivity displayed at the “Ghetto” party had nothing to do with a lack of racial diversity here; it simply stems from a lack of adequate understanding by a small group of ignorant students. This ignorance is on full display now, and the ensuing debate is precisely what is necessary to destroy any remaining unawareness of certain soft spots. And this seems like a perfect logical extension of the University’s approach to managing (or not managing) our lives: Uuse contentious times to find a consensus on the matter through an accurate reporting of the facts (which was amply done by the MAROON) and an honest discussion throughout the University (which was done, albeit lamely, by president Don Randel). Outside of discussion, there is little that can or should be done to stop the insensitivity of a few.