A series of racially and culturally insensitive events stirred controversy on campus this fall, precipitating a sit-in in Pulver Pavilion and a series of demands presented to the Student Programming Board, the administration, and to students.
Early in the semester some students objected to a luau-themed party that they considered insensitive to Hawaiian culture. At Halloween, a costume depicting a Latino and another involving a noose roiled additional outrage. Most controversial was a show by the Campaign Comedy Trail, a troupe hired for what was characterized in advance as political satire but deteriorated into jokes based on racial and religious stereotypes. A Latina student who objected was taunted by a troupe member, according to those in attendance. These incidents followed a controversial Cinco de Mayo party last spring.
On Nov. 4 dozens of students and faculty members sat in the main passageway through the student union with signs simply saying “Listen,” and participating students issued demands that student leaders take part in the Campus Conversations on Race program and that the Student Programming Board manage events to constrain “entertainment groups regarding offensive statements based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion and class.”
Written demands included one for an annual address by the president about the ways differences in race, gender, sexuality, religion, and class manifest themselves on campus. Students also demanded changes in the academic diversity requirement and funding for multicultural disciplines. They challenged students to educate themselves about difference and to be conscious of actions that are inconsiderate and offensive.
Though students set a Dec. 1 deadline for a response, the administration and the Race and Racism Committee were discussing responses to the students’ demands at the end of the semester.