“Do it for the Instagram.”
For a lot of people, that’s the reason they were excited about the camel coming to campus, and there’s really nothing wrong with that. Sure, it sounds a bit douchey to blatantly admit that, but it was in the back of most people’s minds when they saw the Facebook event page.
Let’s be honest. A freaking camel on the plaza? With the quad as a lovely backdrop and a person awkwardly straddling the humps of a massive camel, I can’t think of a more entertaining Instagram opportunity.
The event was meant to be a fun way for the Residence Hall Association to get students involved on campus, even if it was odd. It would have been a hilarious way to relieve some stress during our last week of classes. But the uproar and backlash from some passionate students pushed RHA into its decision to cancel the whole thing.
Why all the drama though? And over this? A camel?
It’s almost comical, really. The upset students who were vocal over the issue on the Facebook event pages made a few somewhat valid points but didn’t quite know the full truth behind their claims.
A waste of funds and resources? Yes, the event might have been an unnecessary use of money, notably during a time when tuition and housing costs are on the rise. But like all other campus organizations, RHA has a budget that needs to be used on student events. Campus organizations like RHA and Undergraduate Student Government normally struggle with a lack of student input about events as well as participation in general. If students want input on where our money is going, we have to be more vocal about it. The money has to go somewhere; it can’t just be reallocated to help tuition or housing costs. That’s not how it works. It has to be spent on events for students by RHA.
The animal rights and animal cruelty argument is a bit off, too. Sure, that’s an important issue that needs attention, and it often is linked with the domestication of animals. But the camel would have been fine on campus. We’re all adults here; it’s not like any students were going to punch it in the hump. Its safety wouldn’t be jeopardized. Even though the protesters succeeded in getting the event canceled, the camel is still going to be used for this exact same kind of event, just elsewhere. So, the people who argued this reasoning didn’t actually have a positive impact on the issue of animal cruelty—they just made some people from RHA feel bad for no reason and spoiled everyone else’s fun.
Where have these protesters been hiding when other animals have been brought to campus? There have been therapy dogs and bunnies in the library during finals weeks for the past few semesters, and no one has turned that into an issue. RHA also brought a reindeer to campus this past December for students to take pictures with. It’s literally the exact same thing as the camel event but with a different animal. Some argued that the camel caused more of an uproar than the reindeer did because camels are more unfamiliar for students. That’s not a fair argument because who is possibly familiar with a reindeer?
And then the topic of racism started popping up, and it all went downhill from there. How does taking pictures with an animal degrade or simplify students’ views of Middle Eastern culture? It’s a seriously far-fetched claim—one that’s kind of stereotypical, but mostly just senseless.
Yet another argument: bringing the camel to campus would increase St. Thomas’ carbon footprint? Let’s think that one through. We’re not flying the thing in first class from Egypt; it’s already in Minnesota. If driving the camel to campus supposedly increases our carbon footprint, then so do the hundreds of commuter students who drive to and from campus every day. Same with the students using the school shuttles to and from Minneapolis every day. And that’s clearly not the case—there’s nothing wrong with either of those things. I’m all for protecting and helping the environment, but let’s be realistic here: a camel on campus has nothing to do with environmental issues. That claim is a huge stretch. There are so many ways students could actually make a difference in the environment, and protesting a camel event is not one of them.
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.
This was an issue that people jumped on through social media outlets. A lot of people hopped on the bandwagon without knowing much about the issue at all or having any legitimate reason to cause a ruckus. RHA was just trying to do something nice for students during a stressful time. The event was a funny pop culture reference to “hump day,” and the whole thing was purely meant for entertainment. I love a good opinionated person, and a little discourse within the student body is great, but some people need to lighten up.
There are bigger issues to worry about … How are we supposed to spend “hump day” now without a live camel on campus?
Anne Gaslin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.