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U. of Louisville Apologizes After President Is Photographed in Stereotypical Mexican Costume

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President Ramsey is at the lower right, in the multicolored poncho. (Photo: Scott Utterback/The Courier-Journal)

The University of Louisville apologized on Thursday after its president, James R. Ramsey, and other university officials drew sharp criticism for appearing in a photograph in stereotypical Mexican costumes, complete with sombreros, bushy mustaches, and maracas, reports The Courier-Journal, a newspaper in Louisville, Ky.

The newspaper published the picture on Wednesday in a photo gallery about a university-owned mansion. The costumed officials were pictured at a Halloween party there on Wednesday.

On Thursday the university’s view of the event was somewhat less festive. “We made a mistake and are very sorry,” Kathleen Smith, the president’s chief of staff, said in a written statement cited by The Courier-Journal. The statement said the president’s office had expressed “our deep regret for the hurt this experience has caused” in a meeting with Sarah Nuñez, an assistant director of the university’s Cultural Center.

Ms. Smith said the public university would hold a series of conversations with students, alumni, and members of the faculty, staff, and community “to further focus on diversity and racial equality issues.” And she said the university would “institute immediate training” on those issues. “This event shows we have much more to learn about our community,” her statement said.

Pointed criticism was heard on social media and also came from The Louisville Cardinal, the student newspaper, whose editor, Olivia Krauth, noted that “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.”

Ms. Nuñez, who oversees initiatives for Hispanic and Latino students, told The Courier-Journal she hoped the episode would provide a learning experience. “We’re human beings,” she said, “we’re not costumes.”

Mr. Ramsey attracted criticism earlier this year after The Courier-Journal reported that his total compensation in 2014 had topped $1.6 million. (The Chronicle’s Executive Compensation database reported his base pay that year as $624,000.) The president faced more controversy this month after a new book alleged that a Louisville athletics official had paid strippers and prostitutes to provide sexual services to current and prospective athletes whom the university hoped to recruit.

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