AUSTIN, Texas – A group of first-year law students at the University of Texas at Austin has been chided by the dean for participating in a "Ghetto Fabulous"-themed costume party and posting pictures from it online.
The party is the latest racially insensitive incident to emerge from the university, which has struggled for years to boost minority enrollment and make students of color feel welcome.
"Among the many ways to happily party in Austin, this particular one was singularly heedless and odious," Dean Larry Sager said in an e-mail Friday to the law school's student body.
Nick Transier, a first-year student who attended the party in September and posted pictures on his Web site, said nobody meant to offend anyone of any race.
"We had no intention by any measure to choose a group or class of people and make fun of them," said Transier, 26, of Houston.
But the photos — in which partygoers carried 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor and wore Afro wigs, necklaces with large medallions and name tags bearing traditionally black and Hispanic names — upset some black law students, said Sophia Lecky, president of the Thurgood Marshall Legal Society.
"I just thought overall that it was kind of insensitive, that it was mocking a group of people or a class of people in just a real stereotypical or negative way," said Lecky, whose group aims to improve the academic and social climate for black UT law students.
Sager met with about 18 students who were at the party and said he is convinced they didn't think their actions would offend classmates. No disciplinary action was planned.
Transier said he and other partygoers have apologized to members of the Thurgood Marshall Legal Society.
About 70 of UT's roughly 1,300 law students are black, according to preliminary enrollment figures. There are about 800 white students, 225 Hispanic students, 75 Asian students, 55 foreign students and 75 whose ethnicities were unknown.
Former UT President Larry Faulkner ordered sweeping changes in curriculum and culture in 2004 after a series of incidents that included the egging of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue and fraternity parties where blacks were portrayed in Jim Crow racial stereotypes.