Search ETDs:
Campus Perspectives on Race, Theme Parties, and Hate Incidents
Woolway, Demere

2014, Doctor of Philosophy, Miami University, Educational Leadership.
This dissertation examined the multiple perspectives generated by a single hate incident on a college campus. Hate incidents include a range of hate crimes, hate speech, and bias incidents motivated by discriminatory impulses against someone’s identity. This project is framed by a literature review that examines how hate incidents are defined by researchers who focus on perpetrators, legal frameworks, victims’ rights, colleges, and communities. Racially-inflected theme parties are one type of hate incident. In these racially-inflected theme parties, college students (often in fraternities and sororities) gather to drink and wear costumes that parody a particular racial identity. Although they are relatively common, there is little literature on how to respond to such incidents.

In this dissertation, I focused on a “Hood Ratchet Thursday” theme party planned at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2013. Many members of the U-M community found this party offensive, and particularly demeaning to Black women. My constructivist approach used narrative research strategies to collect three sources of data: online comments, survey results, and interviews. From these data, I created four composite narratives to illustrate the range of perspectives on the theme party. The perspectives range from not seeing a problem with the party to seeing the party as part of an overall hostile campus climate. The polyvocal narratives demonstrate that colleges can improve their responses to theme parties by acknowledging the multiple perspectives that the parties can generate.

Based on the narratives, I made recommendations for improving response to theme parties and other hate incidents. Practitioners can prepare by creating a plan, creating consistent guidelines regarding theme parties, and educating the campus at large. If a hate incident occurs, practitioners can respond by communicating clearly, welcoming multiple perspectives, and engaging with intersecting identities. Colleges should also consider encouraging dialogue, whether it is online, faculty-led, or student-led. Afterwards, practitioners should assess their response to the campus incident. This dissertation adds to a limited body of research on racially-inflected theme parties and on how campuses respond to hate incidents.
Kathleen Goodman (Advisor)
Elisa Abes (Committee Member)
Kathleen Knight-Abowitz (Committee Member)
Stephen Quaye (Committee Member)
Katherine Kuvalanka (Committee Member)
142 p.

Recommended Citations

Hide/Show APA Citation

Woolway, D. (2014). Campus Perspectives on Race, Theme Parties, and Hate Incidents. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from

Hide/Show MLA Citation

Woolway, Demere. "Campus Perspectives on Race, Theme Parties, and Hate Incidents." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Miami University, 2014. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 18 Sep 2018.

Hide/Show Chicago Citation

Woolway, Demere "Campus Perspectives on Race, Theme Parties, and Hate Incidents." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Miami University, 2014.


Woolway-Final Dissertation-OhioLInk.pdf (873.41 KB) View|Download