The Beach House of Academe

Okay, so there was ghetto party at a beach house rented by Fairfield University students last weekend. I once attended Fairfield University and lived in a beach house. We opted not to have any ghetto parties—we found equally stupid things to do to offer up as proof that we were college students. And by the way, it’s not that collegiate types have cornered the market on stupidity, it’s just that some of them feel more pressure.

But aside from learning that my alma mater has its share of questionable behavior like other universities, I was disappointed to learn that only 2.7% of the school is black. Maybe if I did research I’d learn that this is typical, but data and statistics aside, it doesn’t seem right. I attended Fairfield in the 60’s and at the time I could probably identify and name the black students on campus. For better or worse they’d been recruited as athletes, and because we went to the basketball games, we came to “know” them. I wish I could say I saw the injustice in that—I do now—but I don’t think the system has changed that much in colleges nationwide.

Again—not even three percent.

Connecticut, from which Fairfield draws many students, is 11% black; America itself, 12%. The major state university is 5% black. To its credit Fairfield does boast a Spanish/Latino populace of over 7%, but even there UConn has them by one. I guess the most telling statistics involve the percentage of white students at Fairfield: 70%.

I’m not going to pretend to know all the factors at play here, and I’m not being critical of my former school. But I am surprised. And I guess I can understand why, in that sort of environment, a ghetto party would not be considered that bizarre or outlandish. A few months back I dismissed the Halloween flap at Yale about racial sensitivity as being over the top: I thought the protest was specious at best. Now I’m not so sure. Now I’m thinking that it’s an easy step or two from hijinks to intolerance to all-out, unabashed bigotry. In college, in the workplace, anywhere.

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