Was Prince Correct? Are Parties Meant To Last?
It might surprise many of you to know this, but about a year ago I was approached by a group of students who had been informed that a theme party was being planned that I might want to know about. These students were visibly upset, and after listening to their concerns so was I. I left that conversation with them with my stomach in knots. Looking back on that time period I discovered that I really walked around in a fog for a while trying to find a perspective in which to place that potential party's chosen theme. Try as I might I was unable to do it.
Now, if you have never been to a college party, a theme party more specifically, you don’t know what you may have missed or are missing. I remember during my undergraduate college days throwing one myself. My mother went out of town on a business trip and it just became apparent to me that it was the ideal time to do it. (Oh yes, I still live in fear of my mother to varying extents and am fairly confident she won’t see this blog or I wouldn’t be telling you this story). I had just finished pledging my fraternity, was now a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and was ready to party after having done without a social life for too long a period of time.
The theme parties that I had previously attended were always Toga, Beach, or Sports gear parties. Always looking to do something different I decided to host a pajama party. Suffice it to say it was off the charts. People arrived in bunches around 8:00 p.m. and didn’t leave until 3:00 a.m. No neighbors complained about the noise, everyone made it home safely, there were no fights, no one got excessively drunk, and more importantly, my mom didn’t discover that there had been a party in her absence. On some level, that party made me a legend at Cal State Long Beach (not too far from the legendary status imparted upon Tom Cruise’s character in Risky Business). The party was so off the hook that a year later I actually met the woman who would become my wife when a group of women who had heard about the party and now lived in the same apartment complex as me in Culver City, California asked me to come over to their apartment and share with them my insights and strategies about throwing a pajama party. In that group was an out-of-towner who would return to attend the party, and then return to party with me. The rest is history!
So, as theme parties go, I know a little something about kicking a party off. I also heard that SUNY Plattsburgh students know how to party as well. So, I was blown away when I was told that the theme party that they were preparing to throw was a “retard party.” Yes, you read that correctly, some students were going to throw a “retard party.” I guess many of you are out there thinking to yourself, what is a retard party? Well, I was informed that it is a party that only grants access to those who portray themselves as retards. In other words, to attend the party you have to dress and act like a retard! I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I was to hear this. At the Center for Diversity at PSU we work so hard to educate our students about social justice and respect for diversity. It was heartbreaking to discover that there could be a population of students on our campus that could even believe other students would even want to attend a party with such an insensitive theme attached to it. It was apparent that none of these students throwing the party had a disabled family member because if they did how could they begin to even conceptualize such a party?
Well, fortunately the party didn’t occur, largely in part to a large number of the Examining Diversity through Film students (both past and present) who decided they were going to take action to make sure that it didn’t. They created such a fuss about the party that they may have shamed the students who were planning the party. When asked why they would even host a “retard party” some of the students planning the party laughed and claimed it wasn’t that serious. So, my questions to you are:
1. Was their throwing a “retard party” something I should be taking serious?
2. What is it that could even make students host such a theme party?
3. How could that group of students not have one amongst them who would step up and challenge the idea?
4. How is it possible that not one of those students would emerge as a voice of reason to end such a horrific idea for a party theme?
5. How many of you might have attended or did attend a party as disturbing as this? Why? Is this truly a social injustice, or just a party that college age students who are not necessarily fully mature yet attend along the way to achieving maturity?
6. Though I am describing a party, are there other moments that you have encountered that mirror or resemble the basic level of inconsideration about to be exemplified by these students as they planned to host their “retard party?”
7. What do we tell our children as they grow up to better ensure that they will never participate in such a party?
Please recognize I don't have any expectations that anyone will answer all the question, and that some may want to only answer one or two. That is fine with me, I'm just looking for answers! Believe it or not, sometimes I am badly in need of second and third opinions!!!