THE EQUITY LENS | College party theme: Willful ignorance

Student leaders and allies at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University (CSB/SJU) in Saint Joseph are currently dealing with the ongoing offensive party themes that were created to commemorate the graduating senior class. To commence this year’s graduating seniors at CSB/SJU, the Fourteenth Annual Mandatory Senior Appreciate Keg (FAMSAK), a private Facebook of seniors, has gone out of its way to be 'creatively' offensive. Who would be surprised? This is the fourteenth year of this tradition hence the "Fourteenth" in the title. In other words, like any other year, the celebration goes on even if other students are hurt and against it.

With themes like “Pig Tails and Pedophiles” and the ever classic Mexico theme: “Cross the Border into the Quarters,” there are bound to be "overly sensitive" students at the college.

The FAMSAK students say it is not harmful. It’s just a bunch of college kids wearing sombreros and holding chihuahuas behind a gate that supposedly signifies the US and Mexico border.

I guess I must be ‘overly sensitive’ because this deeply bothers me. I graduated just last year from CSB/SJU, and all these pictures of these parties that dehumanizes people and degrades them to nothing more than a party idea is sickening. Parties like these are not for people like me. They are meant to exclude people. 

I mean it’s only one of the most contentious policy issues in the United States, and there have only been a couple of thousands of migrant deaths, right? I am sure no one, not even Latino students, would get offended at all.

To deter some of the "overly sensitive" senior students, here are some encouraging quotes from supporters on FB:

“It’s tradition. If you don’t like it, you could have gone to a different school.”

“It’s a party. Why are you being so sensitive?”

“We didn’t wear these costumes to intentionally hurt anyone. Get over it.”

 

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Not all students agree with the party themes (Kudos to these vocal student leaders):

 

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I would like to say this is not the CSBSJU that I know, but I would be lying if I said that student body wasn’t a reflection of its own cultural climate. It’s not just a few bad apples; it’s an underlying permissiveness that allows students to even think they can throw such parties and get away with it. This isn’t just one particular college campus, but all college campuses with students that continue to throw offensive parties.

Sadly, they can get it away with it.

Sometimes, most of the time, students of color and allies can’t do anything. Some of us watch it happen again and again, some comment and disagree, and some of them are like me who write and document these things. Some try to educate or get angry, and some learn the true meaning of friendship in the context of racism. 

 

Related story: COMMUNITY VOICES | Letter From Winona State University: Race and Higher Education by Jouapag Lee

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  • There is a growing educational equity crisis across the nation and locally too. I agree with you, it's hard to be a person of color in the predominantly white culture of MN, despite all the diversity we do have. I know MNSCU and other higher education institutions in MN are trying to open college access to students of color, but the truth is many of our universities are ill-equipped to meet the needs of diverse students. - by Jopa Lee on Wed, 05/07/2014 - 11:43pm
  • Thank you Ms. Vang for speaking out and I am sorry you and others have to endure this kind of racist ignorance in 2014, at a college no less. It amazes me that such uninformed students graduated from High School and passed into a college environment. Who is watching the college borders? - by Kristina Gronquist on Wed, 05/07/2014 - 11:26pm
  • I would like to respectively disagree with what has been written in the blog. I do not believe that this reflects the thoughts, intentions or actions of the large majority of CSB/SJU students. The blog neglects to include the actions by the students to change the themes in order to make sure that nobody felt excluded or discriminated in any way. The hosts of the aforementioned themes have sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended. It would be nice if you could also blog about the changes and the positive actions that are taking place between the students of CSB/SJU. I think that a message of how people have/can work together to overcome obstacles of discrimination and exclusion would carry a lot more influence and power than a story that looks to degrade the integrity and image of a community. - by Brandon Seppelt on Thu, 05/08/2014 - 12:36pm

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Tiffany Vang's picture
Tiffany Vang

Tiffany Vang recently graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in Saint Joseph, MN. She was a Peace Studies major, and is 2009 Gates Millennium Scholar and Ambassador, and 2011 Jackson Fellow. 

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Agree to disagree

This seems like an overblown witch hunt to me. If you have beef with the theme of a party, fine. Take it up with those who threw the party. AMSAK parties are hosted in private residences and themes vary for every party every year. Unless you've been a senior multiple years and have personal experience don't paint this as a trend that taints the tradition. You took offense to a couple party themes, don't demonize 14 years with a dozen themed and often un-themed social gatherings each just because you want to live in a world that doesn't step on your toes. I can see why you find the border crossing theme offensive but I find your portrayal of these traditions to be heavy handed and unnecessarily condemning of the student population on a whole. It was a college party not the deep social justice issue you're making it out to be.

Also if you're trying to portray "student leaders" showing tolerance and respect in some disjointed FB thread try not to end on some blatant dig against white people. I'm sorry you left CSB SJU with such an obvious chip on your shoulder to go with your peace studies degree. You didn't have to attend a campus with such a pronounced monoculture.