McShane Responds to “Ill-Conceived” Halloween Decoration




A Halloween decoration in the window of a McMahon Hall apartment sparked outrage among members of the Fordham Community on Oct. 24.

Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, issued a statement on the decoration at 7:29 a.m. on Oct. 25. The University is currently investigating “what appears to be an ill-conceived Halloween decoration,” according to the email statement.

The international student who displayed the decoration thought that the mummy, featuring a grotesque Halloween mask, was a “standard Halloween display,” according to the email. The hanging effigy, combined with the seemingly dark complexion of its mask, however, led some to see the decoration as representing a lynching.

Members of the Fordham Community saw the effigy as representing a lynching, due to its seemingly dark complexion when seen from street level (Photo from Facebook)
Members of the Fordham Community saw the effigy as representing a lynching, due to its seemingly dark complexion when seen from street level. (Photo from Facebook)

“The corpse’s face—the only part of its body visible—is a typical gruesome Halloween mask which appeared dark complexioned from three stories below,” McShane explained in the email. He continued, however, that “if the mask can be said to represent any race, it would be Caucasian,” citing an image of the mask attached to the email.

McShane said that he fully understands “the shock and anger felt by members of the University community at seeing the display and believing that it represented a lynching.”

“Had that been the case, the display would have been even more repugnant, hurtful and disturbing than it is,” he continued in the email. “Since the offending student has told those investigating the incident believed that it was only a standard Halloween display, it may only reflect incredibly poor judgment.”

The NYPD also investigated the incident and determined that no hate crime had occurred, according to the email. Fordham’s Department of Public Safety is still investigating the incident in cooperation with staff from the Office of Student Affairs. When the investigation has concluded, the student who created the effigy may face “disciplinary proceedings,” according to the email.

“I want to emphasize that even if no insult was intended by the student who placed the display in her window, I appreciate that the hurt felt by people of color is genuine and has deep roots in our nation’s history,” McShane continued. “Fordham will also take whatever measures are deemed necessary to try to prevent further incidents of this sort.”

The mask of the effigy (Photo from the Office of the President)
The mask of the effigy from the window display. (Photo from the Office of the President)

“I ask you to be sensitive of other members of the campus community, and to try to have compassion and understanding of others’ anger,” he added. “Be kind, in other words, to your classmates, and to yourself.”

In the email, McShane also encouraged students affected by the incident or who wish to speak with someone about it to reach out to their Resident Assistant, Commuter Assistant, or Resident Director at any time, as well as the Counseling Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, or Campus Ministry during regular hours. Students can also contact the Department of Public Safety at any time.

The contact information for each office is as follows:

Counseling Center: Lincoln Center: (212) 636-6225; Rose Hill: (718) 817-3725

Campus Ministry: Lincoln Center: (212) 636-6267; Rose Hill: (718) 817-4500

Office of Multicultural Affairs: Lincoln Center: (212) 930-8834; Rose Hill: (718) 817-0664

Public Safety: All Campuses: (718) 817-2222