James Ramsey, the president at The University of Louisville in Kentucky, came under fire for donning a sombrero and a brightly-colored poncho at a Halloween party. Members of Ramsey’s staff at the university were also wearing sombreros and some donned thick, black mustaches.
Photos of Ramsey appeared in The Courier-Journal as part of a photo gallery about a mansion in which the party took place and many were offended by the costume, believing it mocks Mexicans and Mexican-Americans by stereotyping them.
"We made a mistake and are very sorry," Kathleen Smith, chief of staff to the president, said in a statement, according to reports. Smith said her office also met with the university’s Office of Hispanic and Latino Initiatives after the incident.
Many students were also unhappy with the president’s costume.
“If a fraternity threw a party with a Mexican theme and pictures of them in these outfits got out, they would be in huge trouble just like countless other Greek organizations across the country in the past few years,” Olivia Krauth, the editor of the student newspaper, The Louisville Cardinal, wrote on Oct. 29, a day after the photo was released. "As the president of a university, I would expect more."
Smith said the staff would receive training on race and diversity issues.
Sarah Nunez, the director of the Office of Hispanic and Latino Initiatives at University of Louisville, summed up the cause of the outrage succinctly: “We’re human beings, we’re not costumes.”