'Blackface Incident' Brings Out Almost 100 Ursinus Students to Meeting

After a Halloween costume sparked a firestorm, students discussed administrative involvement, policy changes and potential curriculum-related solutions to what some see as race insensitivity on campus.


Students of Ursinus College gathered at the Ursinus Student Government Associaition (USGA) to discuss an incident in which a student dressed up in blackface for Halloween.

"This week, an Ursinus student attended a USGA sponsored event in a costume which offended many members of our community," said the USGA in an e-mail recapping the meeting.

According to students and Twitter feeds, a white male student went to a costume party dressed as Olympic Gymnast Gabby Douglass in blackface.

The USGA meeting brought out just under 90 students. Ursinus Assistant Dean Todd McKinney and  Multicultural Services Director Paulette Patton were also in attendance.

According to the minutes of the meeting, it was decided that the incident does not violate school discrimination policy, as it is considered freedom of expression if no one is harmed or directly targeted.

A student said that this is a serious issue, because it affects the entire community by making people of color feel uncomfortable; education on racial issues are necessary.

Students questioned the involvement of the school; why there has been no discussion of a policy change, why nothing has been done to stop this kind of behavior, why there is a breakdown of communication in that the incident appears to have been "swept under the rug".

There was wide-spread support for educating students on what is important in the campus, as well as including "The New Jim Crow" in CIE, the Common Intellectual Experience curriculum.

One student noted that this is the latest in a series of racial incidents in the past several years, including an incident last year when a student carved a racial slur into a professor's podium. The USGA believes that this is an opportunity to strengthen the unity of the student body.

"Rather than creating more tension, we wish to use this as an opportunity to improve our community and educational experience," the USGA said.

"Ultimately, we as students are the ones responsible for building a culture with which we can live.  While we strongly regret that students have been hurt and offended, we are made hopeful by the strength and respectfulness of the response we saw tonight."

K.B. Matticus November 09, 2012 at 03:57 PM
PC run amok. The young man was not dressing in costume as a generic black person. He was dressing in costume as a specific famous individual. I'm offended that individuals teaching and studying at the college level find it so difficult to draw the distinction.
Buck Trapper November 09, 2012 at 08:23 PM
p bresn November 10, 2012 at 12:24 AM
are y serious????? so no one can represent a black person on halloween???? give me a break...this is utterly ridiculous. and to represent gabby is an honor you losers............get a freakin grip.
K.B. Matticus November 10, 2012 at 12:32 PM
And where is the hate, or the speech, in the young man's actions? Yours is an intellectually lazy, knee-jerk reaction to a completely innocuous choice on the part of the young man.
Ann Hankins November 10, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Wondering if there would have even been the SLIGHTEST notice if a black person dressed up as say Ronald Reagan or George Washington? This is NOT meant as a " slight towards black" but seriously?....if you go looking for racism you'll always find something you cal CALL racist.
p bresn November 11, 2012 at 12:59 AM
anon November 13, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Why is everyone arguing? This young man's costume (while intended to represent a famous athlete) consisted of "blackface," a single thread of deeply rooted historical fabric spun from societal prejudice, hatred, and human suffering. There is meaning there, and if certain groups on campus were made to feel uncomfortable, then that should be grounds enough for the institution to re-evaluate how it educated its students on interacting appropriately.
K.B. Matticus November 13, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Everyone is "arguing" because many of us are no longer willing to tolerate PC nonsense without speaking up. We are no longer willing to accept a charge of racism without some evidence that the intent behind the behavior or speech was racist. Your being offended does not necessarily make my behavior or speech or attitude racist. No one was "made to feel uncomfortable" - if they were uncomfortable, it is because they chose to feel uncomfortable. They could have chosen to step back, recognize the intention of the costume and the blackface as a part of the costume, and then be amused, delighted, intrigued, bored, or any number of other reactions.
anon November 13, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I say "arguing" because nothing along the lines of offensive behavior should really be tolerated in the public realm (i.e. a college) call it P.C., but it's that way for a reason. Freedom of speech was intended for individuals to generate social change, not go backwards in time for the sake of amusement at the expense of multiple others. it really does'nt matter whether or not they "chose to" feel uncomfortable...besides its been well understood that feelings are mostly automatic human phenomena. the fact of the matter is that they did, and their upset was voiced. I'm all for expressing oneself in social institutions, but not when it can detrimental to the progress of certain ethnic groups that have, historically speaking, faced decades of collective hardship.
K.B. Matticus November 13, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Freedom of speech was not "intended for individuals to generate social change..." but let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that your assumption is true. One might make a case that the young man was using his "freedom of speech" to generate the social change of having people drop the knee-jerk "I'm offended" reaction to every imagined slight. The question of the source of human feelings, how they affect us, and how we respond to them, is a tad bit more complicated than you describe. It does matter that they chose to feel uncomfortable, and that they chose to voice their upset, and that there were a multitude of other options available to them. I hardly think that the young man's Halloween costume could be "detrimental to the progress of certain ethnic groups..."
anon November 13, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Why do you think freedom of speech is wholly celebrated, then? I think that there could be many reasons, and one of them, it could be argued, could be because often a newly voiced opinion sows the seeds for societal growth and different ways of thinking about life. The young man could have easily chosen to portray Gabby Douglas without relying upon blackface as makeup, given its widely known historical implications. sure, you can call me a square, but I wasn't implying that the literal costume, or that this specific incident alone was detrimental to the progress of certain ethnic groups, it just seems to me that the mentality behind it seems a bit backward, and I could definitely see why people were upset or uncomfortable. Like you said, these issues are profoundly intricate. It's saddening that people are vehemently defending this poorly thought out decision based on perhaps a desire to act out against this idea of "political correctness" as one intended to censor and silence personal expression, or put lipstick on truth. Members of the community were offended. This costume should not have be worn within the context.
Ann Hankins November 13, 2012 at 11:31 PM
HUH?.." nothing along the lines of offensive behavior should be tolerated in public"???...Who is to determine " offensive"? If I wear my Gay Pride shirt to the grocery store should I be asked to leave? How about your " I love Jesus" shirt. As an atheist it offends me that you try to " promote" your religion. Freedom of Speech has long ago been re-written to now read Freedom FROM Speech.
anon November 14, 2012 at 12:20 AM
I....am actually an atheist myself, I'm not trying to promote any religion. I didn't even see this as an issue of religion. While I see your point, when I wrote that I was more talking about issues of "race" prejudice and how it pertains current situation mentioned here and what this means for the school. Interesting assumption you made there, though.
Ann Hankins November 14, 2012 at 02:33 AM
When I say " your I love jesus shirt" I mean it in the collective sense, not " yours specifically. We're discussing society as a whole, not on an individual basis........
K.B. Matticus November 14, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Freedom of speech is not "wholly celebrated," and your perspective in this situation is a perfect example. You believe that if "members of the community were offended," or that if your own sensibilities are offended, then speech should be limited.
Bob Jones November 20, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Even if you are fully aware of the history of "blackface," this whole situation is absolutely rediculous. Why is someone being victimized for dressing in a costume for Halloween? His intentions were not to show hate towards a certain race. Yeah, there is history behind "blackface," Hell, there is a lot of history about a whole bunch of shit. Irish people were slaves in history and people go around during St. Patrick's Day wearing shirts referring to the Irish as drunks who don't know anything else other than getting drunk. There were a lot of people dressed up in costumes on Halloween that anyone could have mistaken as "offensive." Quite frankly, I am offended that a movie like "White Chicks" can be seen as "acceptable," but someone dresses as a girl from the women's olympic gymnastics team and they are called an ignorant asshole. People need to realize that history is history for a reason and move on. Nobody said anything to the kid for dressing like a woman. Nobody said anything to the people dressed as Mexicans or as Southern hillbillies. But a white kid dresses up in a costume and paints his face black to fit the part, and he gets humiliated for it. Doesn't the fact that he liked Gabby Douglas enough to dress like her for Halloween say anything? This whole situation with "blackface" is completely rediculous and the ignorance of people is astounding. Stop trying to bring racism into every situation because if this line is going to be drawn, many more must be drawn.
Bob Jones November 20, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Let's take a campus-wide poll of how many students were made to feel uncomfortable from this situation.
Bob Jones November 20, 2012 at 06:35 AM
It's called "history" for a reason. It's meant to be in the past. It seems you are trying to move backwards while the rest of us are trying to move forward.


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