It seems as if college administrators are becoming real-life versions of Buzz Killington from Family Guy. Every time college students wish to embark on some amount of mostly innocuous debauchery, administrators decide to inconvenience students’ lives and remind them that anything, if not everything they do, could be offensive to their peers. Judie Biggs Garbuio, the Vice President for Student Development at Gonzaga University, did exactly that in anticipation of Cinco de Mayo.
On May 4, Garbuio sent out the following email:
Tomorrow, Friday, May 5, Cinco de Mayo, is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). This is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, however, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Unfortunately, the celebrations have become less about the appreciation of Mexican heritage, and instead has become more about drinking and partying especially by non-Mexican individuals. Because of this, there are many instances when Cinco de Mayo becomes a holiday that is full of cultural appropriation. At some college campuses, including our own, students create “theme” parties or dress in costumes that are insensitive and offensive to the Mexican-American and more broadly the Latinx culture. I would encourage you to check out the UMEC Facebook page that provides some “alternative ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.” However, if you decide to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, think about what you are doing. Your actions can be hurtful to members of our Gonzaga community and reflect our community. I encourage you to remember the values of inclusion and commitment to diversity that our institution holds. Please remember that there is an enormous difference between appreciating Mexican culture and appropriating it.
Ben McDonald, a freshman at Gonzaga, wrote in Red Alert that the alternatives to celebrating Cinco de Mayo included “reading a classic Mexican novel, not wearing a sombrero or fake mustache, and educating oneself on the history of Cinco De Mayo. In short, if you are having any fun with your friends then you’re probably being racist and should stop what you’re doing immediately.”
This seems like a preemptive strike against those at Gonzaga who might have innocuously consumed a few margaritas and worn sombreros.
But there is precedent for all of this: In fall of 2015, students at Claremont McKenna College threw a ballistic tirade after the junior class president was pictured with two girls dressed up in woven ponchos, large sombreros, and fake mustaches while holding maracas for a Halloween party. That resulted in the junior class president being forced to resign from her position by the president in order to appease the banshees who took offense to a Halloween costume.
Ironically, in an attempt to sound like an opponent of racism, Judie Biggs Garbuio seemed to have belittled members of the Mexican-American as well as the Latino community, claiming that every single member of that community is so thin-skinned that the possibility of cultural appropriation would hurt their feelings. This is an outlandish assumption to make since there are plenty of individuals of Latino descent who may not care what others do.
But just like Buzz Killington in Family Guy, college administrators have to cater to the precious feelings of students who wish to remain insolated in tiny bubbles instead of preparing to address real-world concerns such as employment, taxes, budgeting, and other requisite skills needed to survive outside of their space space in college.