Students at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota cancelled a “Hump Day” party last week featuring a live camel following complaints that the event could be viewed as offensive to Middle Eastern cultures.
The campus’ Residence Hall Association nixed its own event after several students began organizing a protest on Facebook. The protest had received more than 100 RSVPs before it was deleted Wednesday, according to aThursday report in Campus Reform.
The episode has since triggered a social-media backlash against campus political correctness, with critics expressing incredulity over the idea that a camel is somehow culturally insensitive or racist.
“Hopefully this story will be the straw that broke the camel’s back for hypersensitivity on college campuses,” said Andrew Clark, digital press secretary at the National Republican Congressional Committee, on Twitter.
Residence Life Director Aaron Macke told TommieMedia, the school’s online publication, that the organization brought a reindeer to campus in December without incident.
“We had done a program in December where we brought a reindeer to campus for the holiday time, and we did pictures and everything like that,” Mr. Macke said. “We had over 300 students attend—and I think that may have inspired the idea. You know, we have petting zoos that come to campus—we have therapy pets that come to campus around finals time for stress relief.”
Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said on Twitter: “Reindeer, yes, camel, no? … Are college students ‘racially insensitive’ to Laplanders? Or are they just idiots?”
Other students complained on Facebook that the event was disrespectful to animals and too expensive at about $500. Mr. Macke said the camel is owned by a local vendor and specially trained for group events.
RHA president Lindsay Goodwin said in a post on the RHA Facebook page that the event had become too divisive.
“RHA’s goal in programming is to bring residents together in a fun and safe environment where all people can enjoy themselves,” said Ms. Goodwin. “It appears however, 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.”
“Hump Day” is a catchphrase referring to Wednesday. The phrase was popularized in recent commercials for GEICO auto insurance featuring a camel walking around an office asking, “What day is it?”
“There was also a claim that bringing the camel on campus was encouraging orientalism,” St. Thomas senior Ryan Nolan told TommieMedia. “I respectfully disagree. A camel does not ‘degrade or simplify’ our view of Middle Eastern culture. That would be like saying that turkeys simplify people’s view of America. 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.”
The anti-Hump Day Facebook page, “Protest Hump DAAAAAAY,” has since been deleted.
A university spokesman told Campus Reform, “St. Thomas is a Catholic university that welcomes students of all faiths and cultures.”