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Inquiring minds want to know

I was back and forth about whether to post anything about this, but because I've had emails, IMs, and a comment about it, I'm going to. A number of people want to know what's up with the email from Dean Sager. So here's what I know, and it's all second- and third-hand knowledge.

From what I understand, a unknown-sized group of 1Ls planned a Ghettofabulous themed party. Pop culture being what it is today, this at first doesn't sound offensive. Some people dress up as Britney and K-Fed and call it a night, right? Well apparently some people (and I don't know the exact number nor anyone's names) took the theme too far. From what's been described to me, it sounds as if at least one person (a white guy, from what I was told) dressed up as what we'd call a cholo in El Paso, complete with a name tag with a Spanish name. Others (again, I don't know how many, because not everyone was dressed up) were dressed up with "ghetto booties," afro wigs, and other costuming to play on negative black stereotypes and some also had name tags featuring names that were also stereotypical. Pictures were taken with captions such as "Don't worry, we're just UT Law students," or similar captions (correction: the captions may not have named UT Law specifically). So, from the administration's perspective, even though they were not officially connected to the University (it wasn't a sanctioned organization like that time a fraternity had a party at which some people were actually in blackface), how're prospective students who come across them in a Google search supposed to know that? I haven't seen any of the pictures, and this entire account is just what has been described to me.

So, that's what I know, and all of that info has come from students who were either there or who had heard from people that were there. I'm pretty sure people want to talk about it, and that's expected. However, because feelings are likely to be strong all around, I'm screening all replies and unoffensive comments will be unscreened once I have a chance. However, it's a busy weekend at home for me, so I may not get around to unscreening them until later.

EDIT: Some Mousies have been kind enough to correct my second and third-hand info in the comments. Be sure to read them. Again, I am only reporting what's been told to me, so please don't think that how I put it is how things actually went down.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 7th, 2006 12:22 am (UTC)
ahhh come on
How many of us *haven't* seen other people parading around as UT Law students in an obnoxious and offensive manner? It's called Undergraduate Business School!
Oct. 7th, 2006 01:19 am (UTC)
Approved, with reservations.
Having not been there, but having some idea of what went on, that doesn't strike me as an inaccurate assessment.

It's an appropriate letter, in that it strikes a serious note and clearly outlines the consequences while not suggesting any sort of penalty. And from what I can tell, the situation has been cleaned up promptly. An example's been set sooner rather than later, and in a situation that doesn't strike me as particularly odious. No one will make a similar mistake in the future, and short of a few bruised egos and some giggles from the back row, no one gets hurt. Ah, college.

That said, and without getting into specifics, I seem to recall that the fraternity incident had some very serious overtones. I think that there's a self-evident distinction between "playing on negative black stereotypes" and "satirizing hip-hip culture," which is self-parodic anyway. I've seen the pictures in question (of the law school party), and they fall in the latter category. Now, that's not a crystal-clear distinction, but I don't think we should conflate what happened here with the frankly overt racism that was going on at the frat party you mentioned.
Oct. 7th, 2006 03:37 pm (UTC)
re: penalty / punishment and the frat comparison...

The distinction is that the frat is actually associated with the University, and the party in question was not associated, sponsored, or financed by the law school.

The frat could be punished because it was a student organization sanctioned by the University. I highly doubt the law school could actually punish all/any of the participants in the party because what they did, while unadvised, didn't actually break any of the rules.


It will all blow over soonish. I'm a 1L, and I didn't even realize there was "an issue" until my mentor mentioned it and we received a letter from the Dean. I don't think any of the party-ers were trying to "offend" anyone. But I also don't think they're stupid enough that the race card didn't cross their mind as they were playing dress up to attend the themed party.

Oct. 9th, 2006 01:11 am (UTC)
No, the distinction is that the kids at the 1L party were dressed up in parody of hiphop culture. Pretending to be the Icy Hot Stuntaz isn't racist, even unintentionally. It's just ridiculous.

At the frat party, there were people who showed up in blackface, among other things. The fact that they were a sanctioned organization just gave the latitude needed to rightfully give them a deserved smackdown.

Not saying that the reaction to the 1L party was surprising or shouldn't have been anticipated -- and I dunno, maybe it was offensive, though I strongly disagree -- but equating it to the frat party in question does a serious disservice to the law students involved.
Oct. 9th, 2006 05:43 am (UTC)
Just a note: I was not familiar with the details of the frat party I mentioned, nor was I trying to equate the two. I was merely trying to distinguish between a sanctioned organization and a bunch of people who just happened to be law students. I will ammend the original post to reflect that.
Oct. 7th, 2006 02:10 am (UTC)
Just to make a correction - one of the pictures said "Don't worry... we're gonna be lawyers one day." I'm almost positive there was absolutely NOTHING tagged with anything that said UT. And, the only people I know of who dressed as "cholos" were Hispanic, not white (not that it makes any difference), but no one was trying to offend anyone.
Oct. 7th, 2006 04:01 pm (UTC)
How many were at the party and how many were UT law students?
Oct. 7th, 2006 04:07 pm (UTC)
I think it would "make a differance" whether the person dressed up Cholo-style was hispanic/latino or white. We've all heard people say "oh it's ok, I can say this because I'm (insert beleaguered minority group here)" so there is certainly some truth that certain members of society are given a free pass in the mocking/satirizing of members of a group somewhat related to them (in this case, say, an upper class latino making fun of a lower class member) versus an outside class member making the same joke.

Being in the same class as the target of the joke allows for a certain qualification of the remarks (e.g. "how can i be racist/sexist? I'm "beleaguered minority group!")which white people are mostly not able to pull off given that they are normally viewed as being more racist in America* than other minority groups.

* a contentious notion, but I think an accurate one for reasons of numbers, wealth and power that we can all ascertain.

Personally, I'm of the opinion that most of these disputes are more matters of class than race, but our history and prejudices usually prevent us from viewing things through this prism.

Oct. 8th, 2006 01:27 am (UTC)
Maybe Professional Responsibility should be taught first year. We're too old to use the I'm-a-dumb-college-kid excuse. The people involved should take responsibility, own that they did something dumb, apologize and move on. Making excuses and trying to justify it only makes things worse.

We are only human, but we are also held to a higher standard, both in court and in our personal lives. That's what the character and fitness portion of Bar admittance is all about. If something similar happened at a law firm, a politician's office, or any corporation, you would see apologies, shame, and a nice donation to an anti-hate group.
Oct. 8th, 2006 03:10 am (UTC)
most surprisingly, I've heard that a large percentage of the people who went to the party were hispanic, and one african-american showed up. My understanding is that they were completely down with the costume party, so I guess that (to some extent) blunts the allegations of racism. Interestingly enough, I've also heard that they're the people who've caught the most flak about the party in the first place.

Regardless, while it was clearly a childish party, the people trying to create a fuss about it are probably making the situation worse, rather than better. Drawing this kind of negative attention to the law school is hopefully not on anyone's agenda. Besides, this argument seems to be creating more division than unity. Better to let this letter stand as sole testament to the school's disappointment in the 1Ls' unprofessional behavior, and let it go. After such a letter, I can't imagine any of the 1Ls would put themselves in such a position again.
Oct. 9th, 2006 12:01 am (UTC)
I'd say a bright line rule is appropriate here: let's simply expel all of the 1Ls just to make certain that this sort of thing doesn't happen again.
Oct. 9th, 2006 05:44 am (UTC)
You are missing the point...
the big development is not that there was a some stupid party. Its that it turns out we have a dean! I was starting to worry since you never see or hear from the dean whether or not we actually have one. Not only do we have a dean, he some times writes long letters to the students offering sage words on how to get a job.
Oct. 9th, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC)
this is just amazing. narcs need to chill. i dressed up as an indian for halloween one year. shalome to the dome.
Oct. 10th, 2006 01:30 am (UTC)
NO ONE GIVES A CRAP ABOUT ANY OF THIS. or any of your opinions.
Oct. 10th, 2006 05:53 am (UTC)
Re: Comments
Why are you using all caps? Those are reserved for the titles of books in non-law review writing. If in a law review, you will want to use small caps.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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