University of Louisville apologizes over Hispanic Halloween costumes

By Steve Bittenbender

LOUISVILLE, Ky., ( (Reuters) - The University of Louisville issued an apology on Thursday, after a community outcry over a photograph showing school staff, including school President James Ramsey, donning sombreros and other items associated with Hispanic culture during a party.

In a statement directed to the Hispanic and Latino faculty, staff and students, Ramsey' office said the school will initiate diversity training immediately.

The photograph, taken at a staff luncheon, was posted on the website of Louisville's newspaper, the Courier-Journal, along with a story about a university-owned mansion that sits vacant except for certain events, like fundraisers and staff luncheons.

The photo shows Ramsey wearing a sombrero and multi-colored poncho. Women in the image are wearing similar hats along with facial hair, while other men are wearing veils. Several people are also holding maracas.

“This event shows we have much more to learn about our community,” Ramsey's chief of staff Kathleen Smith said in the statement.

According to the newspaper, the items were distributed by Ramsey's wife during a Halloween-themed lunch party for his staff.

The image sparked outrage on social media. Sarah Nuñez, director of the university's Office of Hispanic and Latino Initiatives, told the Courier-Journal the party's theme was insensitive. “We’re human beings, we’re not costumes,” she said.

(Editing by Victoria Cavaliere)