The long-standing tradition of a Mexican-themed dinner at Clemson University in South Carolina did not go as well this year after a student complained that the event was "culturally insensitive."
Throughout the year, Clemson University Dining throws thematic events such as the Low Country BBQ Bash, where students are invited to “pick up a plate of mighty fine fixins” or for St. Patrick’s Day, a meal consisting of “corn beef, fried fish, and Irish grilled cheese.”
The latest event, Maximum Mexican, did not go as well as those that came before.
“Really @ClemsonUniv?!” student Amanda A. posted to Twitter in response to the event. "@ClemsonPrez I thought your focus was #Diversity #CUFiestaFiasco #CUlturallyInsensitive."
She included three pictures: one of two campus workers wearing sombreros, the second of the sign for the event that read “taste Maximum Mexican … Don’t Miss Our Mexican Food Fiesta,” and the third of balloons featuring mustaches.
Amanda’s tweet has drawn nonsupportive reactions from others.
“I’m offended that you’re offended. #CUfiestafiasco,” ZAC tweeted in response.
“GROW UP!" Johnny Olson tweeted to her and Clemson Dining. "Not everything is about race … until you make it about race. The only racism here is YOURS!"
“Real Hispanics are actually laughing at you, just saying … ,” Mark Towe tweeted in response to Amanda.
“I had to agree, so [I] started a petition at the [W]hite [H]ouse website to ban all [M]exican food,” a tweet from Super Paul read. "You’re welcome."
Clemson senior Austin Pendergist finds the entire situation “ridiculous.”
“This is something that Clemson Dining has done for years without any sort of backlash,” Pendergist told Campus Reform. “People love the cultural nights in the dining halls. What's next? Are they going to take away all potato based food as to not offend students from Irish decent? Remove the stir fry station so Asian-American students don't feel as if they are being misrepresented? When does it end?”
The university had a different view on the situation, as seen in the letter posted to the Clemson University Housing and Dining website.
Dear Clemson Family,
Yesterday afternoon, University Housing & Dining intended to celebrate Mexican cuisine with a themed dining event at our Harcombe and Schilletter locations. Unfortunately, the event displayed a flattened cultural view of Mexican culture.
In the future, University Housing & Dining welcomes the opportunity to work with Hispanic and Latino campus groups as well as community members, staff and faculty to better celebrate the food and culture of this region and better educate the Clemson community. If you would like to engage in conversation about a future event, please contact University Housing & Dining at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is the mission of University Housing & Dining to create supportive and challenging environments that enrich and nourish lives. We failed to live out our mission yesterday, and we sincerely apologize. We will continue to work closely with our food service provider to create dining programs that align with Clemson University’s core values.
Doug Hallenbeck, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs
The letter gives hope that another Mexican-themed dining event may still occur at the university.
"We appreciate and support the goal of Dining to celebrate cuisines of different cultures but we felt that we needed to acknowledge unintended offense,” Dr. Doug Hallenbeck, the senior vice president of student affairs, told Campus Reform. “It would have been possible to have the celebration, including décor, as long as we avoid inaccurate and negative stereotypes. That will be our focus going forward. Clemson University issued an apology to students on Thursday after what appears to be a small group of students were offended by an annual Mexican cuisine event put on by university dining services."