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I am investigating the contexts that shape a name or symbol and how that name establishes, counters, and/or reinforces power within a community. This name is “The Ghetto,” the name ubiquitously used by outside media outlets and University of Dayton students, alumni, and some of its faculty and administrative staff to describe the university-owned student neighborhood, until questions of the name’s use began to gain widespread traction on public platforms and in conversation during the 2014-16 academic years. Partially as a result of a community collaborative art exhibition, GHETTO, and columns addressing the name in the student newspaper, Flyer News, debate over the word has ignited across campus and beyond. A conversation about race underlies this debate, which I hope to capture to start a dialogue. Based on voices of university and city community members from public platforms and original interviews in tandem with comparative cases at other universities and in pop culture, I will offer an analysis of this moment of discourse from a critical perspective. This is not the end of this study on “ghetto,” but rather a starting point—a case study—which will hopefully serve as a resource for others at the University of Dayton and other universities and studies broaching similar documentations and critical analyses of the power of language in our social lives.

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Honors Thesis

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John P McCombe

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Stander Symposium poster

Ghetto University: A Critical Analysis of a Word's Power in a Community