Last semester featured some memorable moments in Social Justice Warrior history at college campuses. There was the great Oberlin fried chicken protest, and of course the yoga class that was banned because of “cultural genocide”. Now a new semester has begun, and not surprisingly the race is on among college administrations to prove themselves the most progressive. The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has has sprinted out of the gate:
On Thursday morning, chancellor Beverly Kopper of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater sent out a public message condemning two students for posting a picture of themselves on Snapchat wearing blackface. Thing is, the students were simply sharing their skincare ritual, which included a dark-colored face mask.
Kopper’s misinterpretation was amplified by the passion of her condemnation:
"Last night a disturbing racist post that was made to social media was brought to my attention. This post was hurtful and destructive to our campus community. While social media can certainly bring about positive change, it can also be a place that deeply hurts and harms others."
But Bowdoin College isn’t going down without a fight.
Two weeks ago, some students threw a birthday party for a friend. The email invitation read: “the theme is tequila, so do with that what you may. We’re not saying it’s a fiesta, but we’re also not not saying that :).” The invitation — sent by a student of Colombian descent, which may or may not be relevant here — advertised games, music, cups and “other things that are conducive to a fun night.”
Those “other things” included the miniature sombreros, several inches in diameter. And when photos of attendees wearing those mini-sombreros showed up on social media, students and administrators went ballistic. College administrators sent multiple schoolwide emails notifying the students about an “investigation” into a possible “act of ethnic stereotyping.” Partygoers ultimately were reprimanded or placed on “social probation,” and the hosts have been kicked out of their dorm, according to friends.
So yes, the Bowdoin administration is working long and hard to tell students that they are not allowed to make their own choices about what to wear at parties, and is definitely not pointing out that anyone offended by a sombrero at a party can simply choose to not attend that party.
A Bowdoin alumna read my column today about Bowdoin undergraduates who’ve been disciplined for wearing sombreros, and she decided to email me about last year’s on-campus reunions. She said that the school provided a photo booth replete various hats, mustaches and other props conducive to taking silly celebratory photos.
Guess what was among those items: sombreros!
Not only did Bowdoin provide sombreros, but the school actually posted, on Facebook, pictures of people donning them for the photo booth. Here are a few embedded photos from Bowdoin’s public Facebook page. At least one of them appears to show undergraduates working at a reunion event and wearing the same school-provided sombreros.
Wasn’t there once a time when people at elite academic institutions were expected to be smart?