Loy­ola party re­sponse is crit­i­cized

Con­cern over stu­dent ‘USA’ event called over­re­ac­tion at a con­ser­va­tive web­site

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Carrie Wells cwells@balt­sun.com

When ad­min­is­tra­tors at Loy­ola Univer­sity Mary­land got wind of a planned cam­pus-wide stu­dent party with a “Party in the USA” theme, they say they be­gan hear­ing con­cerns that stu­dents might show up in of­fen­sive cos­tumes re­lated to this month’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

In a se­ries of emails, ad­min­is­tra­tors urged Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers spon­sor­ing the party to re­con­sider the theme, which they char­ac­ter­ized as po­ten­tially di­vi­sive and harm­ful.

The party none­the­less was held last week, with­out in­ci­dent. But the col­lege is un­der fire by some who think ad­min­is­tra­tors over­reached and may even have been un­pa­tri­otic.

Word of the administration’s re­sponse to the party shocked and dis­ap­pointed some re­cent Loy­ola alumni, in­clud­ing Paul Cor­rente, who ex­pressed those sen­ti­ments in a let­ter to ad­min­is­tra­tors this week.

“It’s 1,000 col­lege-age kids want­ing to show pa­tri­o­tism and show unity,” said Cor­rente, who grad­u­ated with an ac­count- ing de­gree in 2015. “I think it should have noth­ing to do with the elec­tion, and that’s what the SGA’s in­ten­tion was.”

He said he thought ad­min­is­tra­tors “lost faith in the stu­dent body.”

“I think the administration just got lost in what was go­ing on with the elec­tion and there were peo­ple yelling in their ears about how this could be of­fen­sive,” Cor­rente said.

The in­ci­dent comes as stu­dents on col­lege cam­puses in the Bal­ti­more area and around the coun­try have held protests and walk­outs af­ter the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump as pres­i­dent. Col­leges and other schools are also among the most com­mon places where re­ports of bias in­ci­dents are sur­fac­ing af­ter the elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter. A few bias in­ci­dents were re­ported at Loy­ola af­ter the elec­tion, a spokesman said.

Loy­ola did not make the two ad­min­is­tra­tors who wrote the emails, quoted this week on the con­ser­va­tive news web­site The Daily Caller, avail­able for com­ment. A univer­sity spokesman pro­vided por­tions of the emails to The Bal­ti­more Sun. The spokesman, Ni­cholas Alex­op­u­los, said quo­ta­tions from the emails as pub­lished lacked con­text.

The univer­sity pres­i­dent, the Rev. Brian F. Lin­nane, ad­dressed the is­sue in an email to stu­dents Wed­nes­day, say­ing the administration’s re­sponse was mis­char­ac­ter­ized.

“We heard from mem­bers of our com- mu­nity who were con­cerned that some stu­dents in­tended to ma­nip­u­late the theme to cre­ate an un­wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment at the event,” Lin­nane wrote. “Loy­ola lead­er­ship brought these con­cerns to the SGA and sug­gested they con­sider their op­tions for how to pro­ceed, in­clud­ing pos­si­bly chang­ing the tim­ing of the theme to later in the aca­demic year when our coun­try, over­all, will be less po­lit­i­cally charged.”

The event went off with­out any of­fen­sive cos­tumes, and the stu­dents “made us proud,” Lin­nane con­tin­ued.

“As I re­flect on the dis­cus­sions prior to the event, I rec­og­nize that we could have demon­strated more faith in our stu­dents,” he wrote. “How­ever, my se­nior lead­ers and I have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to cre­ate an in­tel­lec­tual and so­cial en­vi­ron­ment where all stu­dents feel wel­comed, in­cluded, and sup­ported — an en­vi­ron­ment where stu­dents of all po­lit­i­cal view­points can en­gage in sub­stan­tive, mean­ing­ful di­a­logue in the pur­suit of truth.”

The Loy­ola Repub­li­cans club was among the crit­ics of the administration’s han­dling of the party, but in a state­ment, the group’s ex­ec­u­tive board said they were sat­is­fied with Lin­nane’s email to stu­dents.

“Our in­ten­tion in com­ment­ing on this sit­u­a­tion is to show how Loy­ola is a small ex­am­ple of what is hap­pen­ing all over the coun­try; of how con­ser­va­tive minded stu­dents are treated on lib­eral cam­puses,” the stu­dents wrote. “As lead­ers in our com­mu­nity, we feel it is our duty to stand for and with our mem­bers when they feel si­lenced. We are hope­ful that schools across the na­tion will fol­low the ex­am­ple Loy­ola Univer­sity Mary­land has set by mov­ing to fur­ther en­cour­age in­clu­sive and re­spect­ful dis­course.”

The party, called the Se­nior 200s, was in­tended to be a cel­e­bra­tion mark­ing the 200 days re­main­ing un­til the se­nior class grad­u­ates. Stu­dent body pres­i­dent Maggie Rit­ter re­leased a state­ment calling the party a “suc­cess­ful cel­e­bra­tion” and de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

“We came to an agree­ment on the theme cel­e­brat­ing Amer­ica — to­gether with the Loy­ola administration,” she said in the state­ment.

Oth­ers de­fended the administration’s re­sponse. “I think the administration ab­so­lutely has rea­son to be con­cerned,” said Lind­sey Rennie, a 2015 po­lit­i­cal sci­ence grad­u­ate who was one of dozens of co-sign­ers on a let­ter sup­port­ing the administration. She cited re­cent in­ci­dents around the coun­try that have been la­beled hate crimes and re­cent bias in­ci­dents re­ported at Loy­ola. “Though we are Je­suit and Catholic, at times stu­dents have made it feel like a non­in­clu­sive cam­pus,” Rennie said.

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