After camel's hump day visit is canceled, St. Thomas feels backlash


It was envisioned as a stress reliever during finals week. A chance for students to take a break and pose for a photo with a live camel on hump day.

But after some students complained it was a waste of resources and potentially disrespectful to Middle Eastern cultures, the Residence Hall Association chose to cancel this week's event.

Now that a report on that decision by Campus Reform has circulated nationally, some critics are taking aim at the university in St. Paul for being overly sensitive.

Campus Reform reports a group that started a "Protest Hump DAAAAAAY!" Facebook page expressed its concerns about the event and more than 100 people had RSVP'd to a protest.

Campus Reform says a since-deleted statement on the Residence Hall Association's Facebook page read in part “It appears ... this program is dividing people and would make for an uncomfortable and possibly unsafe environment for everyone attending or providing the program. As a result, RHA has decided to cancel the event.”

In reporting on the cancellation, Tommie Media spoke with students for and against the decision.

Senior Ryan Nolan said "People wanted to see the camel because it looks cool and because of a pop-culture reference in no way relating to Middle Eastern culture.”

Another senior, Emily Kindelspire, told Tommie Media she was happy the Residence Hall Association listened to students, but added:

“The only thing I guess I can say about the event and it being cancelled is that I find it very frustrating that it takes something like a camel to get the student body engaged in something. Not that the camel isn’t a big issue … I just wish that we could translate this to other issues that are happening.”

As news of the camel cancellation spread Friday, critics held it up as an example of how far political correctness has spread.

The Washington Times quoted Andrew Clark, the digital press secretary at the National Republican Congressional Committee: “Hopefully this story will be the straw that broke the camel’s back for hypersensitivity on college campuses.”

There was other reaction on Twitter:

And, indeed, some non-alums showed a dim view of the university:

The critics on the St. Paul campus include Anne Gaslin, who wrote a column for Tommie Media on the eve of the camel-less Wednesday.

"There were so many people excited for this fun, little event; it’s too bad that a small fraction of students were able to dictate the event being canceled. It’s great that campus organizations take student feedback into consideration for their events, but this is an instance when I think they should have respectfully declined the call to action and continued with the event."

City Pages spoke with one of organizers of the planned protest, Ryan Burke, who said the mostly white nature of the campus factored into his opposition:

 "It's a case study here -- [St. Thomas] is 86 percent white, a majority of students are from the upper-class suburbs, and it feels like you're going to school with Michele Bachmann over and over and over again. In a predominantly white campus, having an exotic animal on campus that people can take selfies with, we decided to speak out and it got canceled."

The adviser to the Residence Hall Association, Aaron Macke, tells the Star Tribune the group's purpose is to bring students together to have fun. “If this is going to be something that’s divisive, then it’s not worth doing,” he told the newspaper.

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