Student response to ‘Galactic Fiesta’

Yesterday I woke up to an email from the Office of Student Affairs with the subject line, “We Can Do Better.” Like many students, I dismissed the email as spam.

Much to my surprise, conversations regarding the email increased, and a picture from the event surfaced, bringing to light proof of the lack of cultural sensitivity and understanding from a University of Minnesota department, no less.

Both articles written by the Minnesota Daily on this event focused on an apology and on excuses for the Student Unions and Activities leadership and the student planners, both failing to address the ultimate problem: cultural appropriation.

One article mentioned, “The email stated that the student planners for the event were unaware of the negative impacts and said the Office of Student Affairs is committed to offering programming and resources for all in the campus community.”

I’m going to go out of my way to say that this is a much larger issue than student planners being “unaware.” I believe this is reflective of a larger systemic issue that exists within our university.

It isn’t so much that the student planners were unaware of the negative impacts of the event, but that the offensive materials were approved to move forward by SUA. While I am making an assumption of the pre-event planning process, I have worked alongside SUA to understand how tedious they make the pre-event planning process for student organizations. I would hope that SUA holds its own student workers by the same standards.

So I take issue with not only that these students found this material OK but that those working for SUA did as well. In doing so, I question the standard those working above these students place on their cultural understanding and sensitivity.

So sure, while the apology from OSA as a whole is great, I would like to see SUA take responsibility for this mistake.

What steps are they taking to ensure that this doesn’t happen again? What type of training are they involving as a part of their hiring process to ensure inclusivity and respect for all students? More importantly, what is SUA doing to give back to these communities whose identities have now been regarded as mere costumes, backdrops and decorations?

To claim ignorance as a University department might have been OK at one point. Today I see it as a cowardly act and a blatant show of disrespect. So I echo Danita Brown Young’s sentiments in saying, “We can do better, we must do better. … We will do better,” because we have to.

There are too many racial offenses that go under the radar. See to it that this will not be one of them.