LUSU have intervened to have a “Cowboys and Indians” event, organised by the JCR of Lonsdale College, changed.
The event provoked complaints from the Lancaster University Ethnic Diversity Committee. Speaking on behalf of the group, Maab Saifeldin, the Cross Campus Officer for Ethnic Minorities Liberation, said: “It was offensive because it’s throwing a party to almost glorify the people that massacred, raped, wiped civilisations out and stole their land.”
“Some of us are conscious, self-educated and empathetic to struggles similar to our own, and do think it’s not only offensive but disgusting to want to celebrate such genocide.”
Following the initial complaint, LUSU Vice Presidents Tom Stapleton and Anna Lee spoke to Lonsdale JCR in order to reach a compromise about a change of event. Anna Lee, VP Welfare, commented: “It’s a theme that is totally inappropriate and should never be ran.”
“The stance of not running culturally appropriative events stems from our anti-racism stances and the views of our ethnic minority forum.”
The Lonsdale JCR were quick to change the event to a “Wild South West” theme – removing all references to Native American culture from the promotional material.
The JCR made a statement to SCAN: “We are sorry if we have offended anyone we did not intend to do that. We think it says more about us as a JCR with how quickly we reacted to this issue and how respectful we dealt with it when it was raised.”
LUSU Vice President Tom Stapleton agreed that the theme had the potential to offend, and acknowledged the Lonsdale JCR’s resolution of the issue: “The War Bonnet has a huge degree of spiritual, political, and ceremonial importance throughout Native American cultures, and to wear these as part of a fancy dress theme could be interpreted as offensive.”
“It’s very important to mention that the intent behind this event was never to offend in a malicious manner. Lonsdale JCR could not have been more accommodating or helpful, and I’m incredibly thankful to them for that!”
“This isn’t the Students’ Union sweeping in and changing events – we worked towards a compromise based on feedback that we had from students, and that’s what we’ll always try to do.”
The incident follows the “Day of the Dead” party in the LUSU-run Sugarhouse nightclub in October, which was accused of cultural appropriation by some. The Halloween event attracted controversy for its use of a traditional Mexican celebration as theme.