Student government leaders in the Claremont Colleges consortium declined to provide funding for a campus party because they felt the use of a "mad scientist theme" mocked people with mental health issues, a decision many students say adds fuel to a debate about the role of political correctness on college campuses.
A group of students at Harvey Mudd College, one of five schools in the consortium, organized a "Mudd Goes Madd" party to take place on Sept. 26. The event's "madd" pun was a play on the name Harvey Mudd, a college known for mathematics, sciences and engineering programs.
A day before the party, the student government for Pomona College, another Claremont school, announced it would not provide funding for the event due to concerns with the name. Calling the party "Mudd Goes Madd" was offensive to people with mental health disorders, they said. Event organizers told The Huffington Post the student government leaders did not reach out to discuss their concerns with the name prior to making that announcement.
Comedians and some columnists have increasingly declared college students to be too "politically correct." "South Park" debuted a new character last month named PC Principal, ribbing on the idea that Americans are embracing over-the-top political correctness. President Barack Obama has even weighed in on the topic, saying students should not be "coddled."
"Your disregard of the concerns of the mental health community and their allies trivializes issues that we deem extremely important to our community," the Associated Students of Pomona College told event organizers. "Further, the exclusion of the mental health community in the discussion of allowing the event name is inappropriate."
The ASPC was also worried about crowd control and security, but the name was the "most important" concern, according to posts the student government wrote on the event's Facebook page.
Nico Kass, ASPC president, told HuffPost on Friday the Pomona student government plans to send out a letter to students further clarifying their opposition to the "Mudd Goes Madd" event.
When the event organizers requested funding from ASPC to organize a party the same name, Kass said in an email, "it was made clear in their budget hearing appeal that they did not reach out to affected communities for input on the event title and framing on the basis that their grievances are not valid."
"Committed to creating a safe and inclusive campus environment, ASPC could not support the deliberate decision to exclude relevant communities from the conversation and to dismiss their concerns as unimportant, especially given the long history of these communities being silenced," Kass continued. "Thus, safety concerns and the event name aside, the exclusion of the mental health and disability communities in dialogues about the party name was the primary reason we chose not to fund the event."
The "Mudd Goes Madd" party went on as planned, and remained open to all students in the five Claremont Colleges. Selling shirts with a design carrying the name of the party helped fill the gap in funding, said Elise Cassella, one of the event's organizers.
"Nobody complained about the name of the party," Kyle Dalrymple, a Pitzer College student who attended the event, told HuffPost on Thursday. "In fact, most students were unaware that this was an issue until Pomona student government pulled funding the day before the event.
"While a lot of people understand why the ASPC pulled funding," he continued, "it was viewed as taking something that was inclusive and fun and made it into an issue."
Events with similar names were held at Harvey Mudd in 2014 and in 2010. Two students who have been diagnosed with mental health disorders told the Claremont Independent, a student newspaper, they disagreed with the protest against the name. This year's "Mudd Goes Madd" was not a fundraiser or tied to any cause; it was just intended to be fun.
At the party, students danced along to a DJ, sometimes standing on the stage and shooting water guns filled with brightly colored paint at the crowd, attendees told HuffPost. The end result was that a lot of people needed a shower by the end of the night.
This article has been updated with comment from Nico Kass.
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