At Bowdoin College a couple of weekends ago, there were two parties happening on campus, The Washington Post's Catherine Rampell reports:
Party #1: A "tequila"-themed birthday party where some participants wore tiny sombreros
Party #2: A official administration-sanctioned "Cold War" party, where students showed up in fur hats and at least one gal came costumed as Stalin.
Guess which social gathering unleashed a massive omphaloskeptic upheaval at the Maine liberal arts college?
When pictures of the offending miniature Mexican headgear party showed up on social media sites, seemingly the entire campus swung into action.
Rampell writes that Bowdoin administrators sent "multiple schoolwide emails notifying the students about an 'investigation' into a possible 'act of ethnic stereotyping.'"
The tequila party hosts, at least one of whom is Colombian, will be forced to attend "an educational program facilitated by a faculty member," attend "Active Bystander training," (in case you're wondering what that is, here you go), and "write a letter or paper on these experiences." They have also been forced to move out of their dorms and have been banned from major social events, The Bowdoin Orient notes in an editorial.
Two of the attendees at the tequila party (who do not themselves seem to have been hat wearers or hosts, though the details are unclear) are representatives in the student government. On Saturday, they will face impeachment by their peers.
Accusations against the two include violation of the nondiscrimination policy, as well as "violation of the spirit of the Statement of Solidarity," which invokes the specter of "cultural appropriation," defined as "a power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systemically oppressed by that dominant group, perpetuates racist stereotypes, and/or misrepresents people's culture." They are charged with having "made Latino, and especially Mexican, students feel unsafe."
Student government politics are often the embodiment Sayre's Law, which posits that academic politics are so bitter precisely because the stakes are so low. The impeachment seems silly, but perhaps no sillier than plenty of other extracurricular group kerfuffles, which students are well within their rights to indulge in.
Far more troubling is the fact that administrators have taken disciplinary action and publicly shamed students for throwing a party with silly hats. Were the hats in bad taste? Maybe. Could a dorm supervisor have pulled the kids aside and said "ixnay on the ombreros-say"? Maybe. Should these kids' friends have given them noogies? Maybe. But this simply shouldn't have risen to the level of adult attention in the first place.
The campus newspaper initially editorialized against the party, but posted an editorial today saying that some "aspects of [the hosts'] punishment seem arbitrary." Yep.
(Note to regular readers: Robby Soave is on vacation today. He will resume your regularly scheduled campus outrage blogging when he returns.)