John Carroll University’s Winter Formal theme received a mixed response last week, prompting an apology from the Student Union Programming Board and the Office of Student Activities.
According to a statement made by SUPB and the Winter Formal Committee, the Winter Formal theme “I’m Dreaming of a White Cleveland,” was not meant to be offensive or insensitive.
The statement read, “We now realize the negative impact this had on members of our community. We admit we made a mistake and sincerely apologize for the insensitivity that we demonstrated through using this theme.”
According to SUPB, the theme was based on the popular Bing Crosby song, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”
Freshman Dan Zust did not see the problem of the word being changed from “Christmas” to “Cleveland.”
“I think that you are only being racist if you think about it in a certain way,” he said.
Director of Student Activities Lisa Ramsey said that there is no specific process of getting official approval of themes, but advisors are present to help students through the entire process.
Ramsey stressed that if anything is seen to be controversial it is brought to the students’ attention and dealt with proactively and appropriately.
She said that the decision to change the Winter Formal theme came when junior Molly Delaney, the Student Union executive vice president, talked to her and said some students had been offended by the theme.
“I talked to some of the planners of the event to determine what course of action to take,” said Ramsey. “We decided we needed to cease the distribution of all promotional items that contained the theme and issue an apology to the community.”
In order to prevent this situation from arising again, Ramsey said that SUPB must work hard on educating student leaders and staff to be more sensitive to racial issues and to think through things in a more deliberate way.
“There has to be work done to help students and others understand the difference between intent and impact in situations like this,” she said.
Ramsey also believes there needs to be deliberate steps taken to ensure a diverse perspective is represented and heard on planning boards, and throughout the University.
During the officer transition weekend training session in January for the new Student Union, SUPB and Greek leaders, Ramsey said that a case study will be done using this situation.
She said, “This will not only help students become more sensitive and open-minded, but also help prevent this sort of blunder from happening in the future.”
Ramsey said that SUPB and the Office of Student Activities sincerely apologizes for what happened, and is committed to learning more about how they can make sure it does not happen again.
“Unfortunately, we reside in a world where political correctness takes the place of genuine compassion for one another,” said Molly Delaney, President-elect of the Student Union.
“Rather than see people as equals, we actually draw distinctions between people in an attempt to consider them,” she said.