The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Controversial party reviewed by College Harassment Committee

By Hattie Stahl

A party hosted by Macalester students on Tuesday, Jan. 16 is under investigation by the
Macalester College Harassment Committee (MCHC). The costume party,
themed “politically incorrect,” was hosted in one of the
college’s cottages on Macalester Street. A particular costume
choice by two students caught the attention of Paul Maitland-McKinley
’09, president of the student organization Black Liberation Affairs
Committee (BLAC). Maitland-McKinley learned of the party last Friday,
Jan. 26, from an anonymous student who was present at the party. The
costume involved one student dressing as a Ku Klux Klan member, with
a second student wearing face paint to appear dark skinned. The
costume also included a simulated noose, one end in the hand of the
Klan-costumed member, the other end around the student with the
blackface’s neck.

An anonymous student
who wore the costume in question said the whole point of the party
was to push the lines.

“I think that if I
had sensed any hostility to what I was wearing, or had anyone
appeared offended, I would immediately have taken it off,” the
student said. “There was a variety of equally offensive costumes,
and given the variety, the response targeted to one costume in
particular is unfair.”
The party was hosted
and attended by students who were back on campus early for various
reasons. According to David Nifoussi ’07, who attended the party,
it was a relatively quiet party that ended by midnight.

“Themed politically
incorrect, that included anything that ranged from controversial
issues to things that would be considered taboo in most situations,”
Nifoussi said.

In a statement released
to the Macalester community through a Bulletin Flash on Monday, Jan.

29, President Brian Rosenberg cited the theme of the party and noted
that costumes at the party included negative depictions of race,
religion, and gender.

“It is important to
understand that the College condemns and will not tolerate activities
of this type,” Rosenberg said in the bulletin announcement. “It
is deeply disappointing that Macalester students would be so
insensitive and demonstrate such a lack of understanding of the
College’s values and mission.”
“That type of party
alone will bring conflict on some level,” said Brittany Lewis ’09,
Political Chair and Treasurer of BLAC. “Other costumes could be
considered offensive to other groups.”
According to Nifoussi,
unlike certain parties whose themes target specific groups such as
red-light dances that make fun of prostitutes, white trash parties,
or a pimps and hoes dance, this party theme was aimed at everyone.

Everyone who attended
the party is apologetic to those offended, said a party attendee who
wished to remain anonymous.

“It was a
lighthearted atmosphere, with no hostility, and no one at the party
seemed to be offended,” the student said. “I do think it’s a
lot heavier to hear about the party after the fact. Not because of
the party itself but because of the way the party was portrayed both
in President Rosenberg’s statement and through the rumors that have
started flying around.”

Hearing about the party
as opposed to personally knowing the people involved changes the
presentation of the party, according to Nifoussi. “These people
[attending the party] weren’t trying to hurt anyone,” he said.

“In a place where stereotypes and acceptance are so politically
correct, it was a fun idea to try to go against that.”
“And I suppose we
shouldn’t really be surprised at the outcomes,” he added.

After Maitland-McKinley
learned of the incident, he informed other members of BLAC’s
Executive Board, who called a meeting for BLAC members last Sunday,
Jan 28. Lewis said she thought it was clear that some action needed
to be taken in response to learning about the party.

“Breaking the silence
is the first step in any issue,” Lewis said.

The first two steps
taken, according to Lewis, were to speak with The Mac Weekly and to
inform BLAC members and get their input.

“The purpose of
saying anything to BLAC wasn’t to start a riot,” Lewis added.

“When you leave Mac, you’re going to see worse things than this.

You have to learn how to deal with small issues like this first. We
can learn from this how to put our pains out there and make change
happen, even if it’s on a small scale.”
The advisor of BLAC,
Sylvester Gaskin, Assistant Director of Campus Programs for
Multicultural Life, was present at the BLAC meeting. On Monday
morning, Gaskin informed the office of the Dean of Students of the
party, a step which, according to Gaskin, was following mandatory

“Finding out about
[what happened], there was immediate shock and anger,” Gaskin said.

“But then attention shifts to making sure information is correct as
well as supporting folks who heard and are upset or may not
understand the significance.”
Gaskin said his primary
role, besides passing along any information he may discover to MCHC,
is to support, challenge, and educate.

“People are going to
come in and want to talk about it,” he said.

MCHC began an
investigation of the incident as soon as it was reported to them. The
MCHC process was newly instated last fall, and deals with any
reported situations that could be construed as harassment, according
to Jim Hoppe, Associate Dean of Students. There are four committee
members, two faculty and two staff, who meet when an incident is
reported to decide whether to pursue an investigation.

“The process works
best if students trust it works the way it’s supposed to,” Hoppe
commented, “Which is conditional on maintaining a high level of

For reasons of
confidentiality, Hoppe was unable to comment on specifics of this

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