Marianist response to ‘The Ghetto’

By: The Marianist Stonemill-Kiefaber Community

Dear editors of the FN,

The Marianist Stonemill-Kiefaber Community, as residents in the South Student Neighborhood, would like to make a contribution to the conversation on the use of the word “ghetto” to describe our neighborhood.

In the late 1980s as the university completed the campus master plan, the university made a conscious decision to rename the residential area south of the main campus building to the “South Student Neighborhood.” This was done for several reasons. First, the word “ghetto” was offensive to the Jewish and the African-American communities. Members of the Jewish community found the term offensive because it trivialized the way Jews were forced to live in ghettos under the Nazi regime. These ghettos caused great suffering and were often precursors of movement to death camps. Members of the African-American community found the term offensive because it also trivialized the experience of African-Americans who were forced to live in urban ghettos of poverty and alienation, which caused suffering and the lack of opportunity.

The second reason for the change was that using “The Ghetto” to describe the Student Neighborhood reinforced norms of irresponsible behavior on the part of students—the destruction of property, excessive drinking and violence in relationships. Student neighborhoods should reinforce the goal of creating a residential area where students take responsibility for living as a community of neighbors, respecting human dignity in self and others and being responsible for the common good of the community.

We realize that for some of our students and alumni the term “The Ghetto” evokes images and memories of friendliness, conversations on front porches and enjoyment with other students. While we respect these images and memories, we believe that the term “The Ghetto” should be replaced by “Student Neighborhood” to describe the two areas of student housing on the UD campus. We believe this respects the concerns of our Jewish and African-American brothers and sisters and reinforces a true sense of community in our Catholic and Marianist traditions of education.

We also support Kwynn Townsend-Riley and others who have raised the question of this term for conversation in our UD community. In the spirit of dialogue, we realized there should be opportunities to express different opinions in this conversation. What we find unacceptable are comments that disrespect the human dignity of the persons involved the conversation and that disrespect our African-American sisters and brothers.

In Christ’s peace,
—The Marianist Stonemill-Kiefaber Community

Fr. Sebastian Abalodo
Fr. Bertrand Buby
Bro. Raymond Fitz
Bro. Joseph Kamotho
Bro. Blaise Mosengo
Bro. Tom Oldenski
Bro. Tom Pieper
Bro. Tom Farnsworth
Fr. James Fitz
Bro. Mark Motz
Bro. Brandon Paluch