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New event supplants College’s Pride Week

Kelly Meehan | Thursday, October 27, 2005

Due in part to the controversy surrounding last year’s Pride Week T-shirt, Saint Mary’s student body president Kellye Mitros announced this week that Pride Week has been replaced with a new tradition called Heritage Week, scheduled for early January.

During the College’s annual Pride Week last year, a small group of students staged a silent protest against the T-shirt sold as part of the weeklong celebration. The shirt depicted a vintage Vermouth print ad featuring an elegantly dressed white woman.

Protesters, who called themselves Women Objectively Moving to Eradicate Negligence of Knowledge, handed out flyers saying the shirt was racist, sexist and classist and failed to accurately represent the entire student body. They also circulated a petition requesting an apology from the Student Activities Board, the body responsible for Pride Week.

The protest resulted in several “Identity Forums,” in which students debated the image depicted on the shirt and discussed on campus-wide diversity. Other concerns involving “Pride Week” also emerged, particularly that the week culminated with Saint Mary’s playing host at a Notre Dame football pep-rally.

Mitros said Pride Week had lost its true meaning due to several factors, not entirely to the T-shirt controversy.

“Pride Week always fell during midterms, which was an inopportune time for students,” she said. “The week’s events at Dalloway’s would only attract about ten students. People also did not look forward to eating outdoors during the Twilight Tailgate.”

Mitros and student body vice president Susan McIlduff hope to model Heritage Week off of the successful events surrounding the inauguration of College president Carol Mooney in January.

There will be an event each day – such as a lecture or campus-wide scavenger hunt – that will focus on the history of the College. The week will conclude with a formal 1920s-style dinner in Stapleton Lounge.

“We knew that [Pride Week] was a sensitive issue, so we made the change in an attempt to find a way to create a comfortable environment,” Mitros said.

McIlduff agreed that Pride Week was not successful and did not succeed in uniting the student body through a series of campus events.

“We knew coming into office that we would need to do something to make [Pride Week] more successful. Last year’s controversy really put the week over the edge,” she said.

Heritage Week’s goal will be to promote a greater knowledge of the College’s history within the student body, the pair said. The week will work to “promote greater understanding and appreciation of Saint Mary’s history and show how it made the College what it is today,” as promised on the Mitros-McIlduff campaign platform.

However, not all students are satisfied with the decision to do away with the tradition of Pride week.

Junior Erin Luter felt that Pride Week created an increased sense of unity through the campus-wide sale of the Pride Week T-shirt.

“I am disappointed and feel like [BOG] has given in to the controversy,” she said. “I wish we could have [both Pride Week and Heritage Week]. It is important to know the College history, but Pride Week helped us to know ourselves as Saint Mary’s women, not as women who go to a college near Notre Dame.”

Senior Amanda Caddy protested last year’s Spirit Week shirt and welcomed the idea of a week dedicated to Saint Mary’s history. She did not feel it was necessary, however, to drop the title Pride Week and adopt a new one.

“I don’t see why people are afraid to use the title ‘Pride’ and find something to be proud of. Pride Week is something that everyone should be proud of,” Caddy said.

Senior Cheryl Barker was not surprised that the Student Government decided to cancel Pride Week in the wake of last year’s controversy.

“However, I do not agree with the name change,” Barker said. “The title ‘Pride Week’ means SMC pride – a week to visibly have pride in our school,” Barker said. “Changing the name to ‘Heritage Week’ means what? That we have a heritage?”

Barker feels that the name change presents the same potential for controversy. She believed the celebration of heritage might bring up issues regarding “SMC being regarded as a white, middle-class finishing school.”

Despite the fact that last year’s T-shirt controversy divided the student body, Caddy feels some positive results emerged. Students are now more willing to hear and sympathize with others, she said.

“As peers, [we] should have listened and see why people were offended. Now we are making progress. I have noticed a large increase on the focus of identity and diversity around campus,” Caddy said.

Barker feels that Student Government did need to do something to further address last year’s issues; however, she believes they have taken it one step too far.

“I still believe that everyone should have pride in their school – after all, everyone made the choice to come here, and we are the number one Midwest college,” Barker said. “Having a week that celebrates pride is a great idea. Heritage week celebrates our history instead of focusing on our school and spirit now.”