Fairfield University, Conn. (Courtesy of the university)

Fairfield University in Connecticut is investigating after students hosted a “ghetto-themed” off-campus party on the beach, university officials said.

Witnesses said students attended the party Saturday night wearing baggy pants and gold chains or sporting corn rows and costume baby bumps, according to Fox News in Connecticut.

“The fact that there was even an idea to dress as ‘ghetto’ is an intrinsically perverted issue,” Fairfield junior Joe Harding told the Connecticut Post. “When a party has a theme, the participants are expected to wear a costume. In this case, the party-goers chose to wear clothing and accessories that portrayed their conceptualizations of what it means to be ghetto.

“Ghetto is not a term of endearment.”

Fairfield University president Jeffrey von Arx responded earlier this week, saying that the theme “perpetuated racial stereotypes that have no place in our community and only serve to offend and devalue people.”

“Both within and outside the classroom, we have spoken to many of our students, and heard the personal accounts for how this incident has impact them,” he said in a note to the Fairfield community. “Their concerns go beyond the incident this weekend. To some within our community, this incident is symptomatic of conditions on campus that inhibit our many positive efforts to build a more inclusive, respectful and safer community.”

The university said officials are working to “understand the details.”

“Fairfield University is explicitly committed as a Jesuit and Catholic university to a culture that embraces and celebrates diversity, and we actively encourage conversations and support programs that deepen our students’ cultural sensitivity, while also impressing upon them that they are expected to be exemplary in their dealings with one another, and with everyone in the community,” the school said in a statement. “We expect that our students, faculty and staff maintain the highest level of respect for one another.

“We will be investigating this matter immediately, and will take appropriate actions as soon as the facts have been determined.”

Fairfield University, is a small, private school with about 4,800 undergraduate and graduate students and is among 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, according to the university.

“Fairfield is Catholic in both tradition and spirit. It celebrates the God-given dignity of every human person,” according to its mission statement. “As a Catholic university it welcomes those of all beliefs and traditions who share its concerns for scholarship, justice, truth and freedom, and it values the diversity which their membership brings to the university community.”

African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American students make up about 15 percent of the undergraduate population, according to demographic data.

Student body president Anif McDonald said Monday in a statement that the party’s theme does not reflect the Fairfield University’s mission.

“I have encouraged my peers to engage in dialogue with friends around this issue regardless of how uncomfortable it may be,” he said.

This story has been updated.


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