Feb 022010
Authors: Madeline Novey

Following public outcry from offended students and faculty, a Facebook event inviting CSU students to dress up as Indians and attend the men’s basketball game against the Wyoming Cowboys Saturday was modified to reflect university history rather than race.

After CSU’s Native American community was angered by the negative racial stereotyping connected with the event called “Cowboys and Indians,” people turning out for Saturday’s game are being asked to dress in orange, much like the throwback uniforms of the Aggies.

“Personally, I wasn’t getting the idea that he meant it to be an attack on Native Americans or that he intended it to be offensive,” said Deidra Newbrough, the vice president of CSU’s American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

“But I don’t know how you could not think it could be offensive,” the junior environmental health major said.

“Everyone is reacting very negatively; everyone is offended,” she said when asked how other students in Native American groups across campus were feeling.

When asked if he intended the event to be racially pointed, creator Ben Margolit, a sophomore civil engineering major, said, “No, of course not.”

“I never intended to offend anybody,” he said. “That’s not something I would do. People who know me know I wouldn’t do that.”

Margolit’s planning for the event was as follows, he said: One, get CSU students to go to the basketball game and support the team and two, Wyoming’s mascot is the cowboy, so it made sense to ask students to dress as the opposite, Indians.

Monday night, after posts from angry community members started to accumulate, Margolit removed the “Cowboys and Indians” group page from Facebook. Following a recommendation from a CSU professor, he issued a message to all members of the group that made clear the theme for the basketball game was changed to “Orange Out.”

Though the university can not take official action against any students who dress as Indians at the game Saturday because it’s an issue of free speech, CSU spokesperson Brad Bohlander said leaders in the university encouraged students to represent CSU’s commitment to diversity.

“We encourage (students) to continue to represent CSU with class and integrity and not participate in this or similar inappropriate activities,” said Blanche Hughes, vice president of Student Affairs, student government President Dan Gearhart and Director of Athletics Paul Kowalczyk in an address to the university community.

Student and university leaders alike were greatly appreciative that the event, as originally planned, was canceled.

“I’m very happy that’s been changed. It was offensive to our Native American students,” said Adday Naoum, the director of Diversity for the Associated Students of CSU. “The fact that it has been changed shows the level of respect we all (as students) show for each other.”

All those interviewed said this controversy should be used as a teaching moment to make the community aware of what can be conceived as offensive.

The address from Hughes, Gearhart and Kowalczyk recommended that people interested in learning more about diversity efforts at CSU to visit http://www.diversity.colostate.edu.

Additional information is available online about Department of Ethnic Studies at http://ethnicstudies.colostate.edu and the Native American Cultural Center at http://www.nacc.colostate.edu.

News Managing Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 6:08 pm

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