Cornell University apologizes for ‘culturally insensitive’ marketing campaign

Cornell University apologizes for ‘culturally insensitive’ marketing campaign

Cornell University
Cornell University

When it rains, it pours. If you liked Howard Portnoy’s story this morning about an Indian rights organization’s failed attempt at shaming defenders of the Cleveland Indians’ team mascot, then you’ll love the PC antics emanating from Cornell University. From The Cornell Daily Sun:

Students and administrators alike condemned Cornell Athletics for running what they say was a culturally insensitive, Cinco de Mayo-themed marketing campaign that included encouraging community members to don sombreros and ponchos.

The marketing campaign, which was launched Wednesday to promote Cornell’s football game Saturday against Colgate University, was meant to ‘develop a festive atmosphere at the football game,’ according to Jeff Hall, associate director of sales and marketing for Cornell Athletics.

But one man’s festivity is another’s fail, and a promotional email asking community members to celebrate Cinco de Octubre — a reference to the Mexican national holiday of Cinco de Mayo — didn’t resonate with some thin-skinned community members. One who took offense was senior Carmen Martinez, who said:

I was disappointed that this theme was stereotyping the Mexican culture of which I identify. I was especially troubled by the ‘photobooth’ activity, especially after one of my colleagues pointed out that the winner [is the person] with the ‘best costume,’ implying the best Mexican costume was going to win a prize. What better way to invite stereotyping of our culture?

You could always create a cartoon-like logo for a fictional sports team called, say, the Mexico Enchiladas or something. Or you could always try saying “Cinco de Octubre” in an exaggerated Spanish accent. When Barack Obama did it early in his presidency, compounding the problem by wishing Mexico’s Ambassador a “happy Cinco de Cuatro” (the date was May 4), no one on the left batted an eyelash.

As for Cornell, the university was duly chastened by the criticism from the community’s PC wing. The event was canceled and Jeff Hall, associate director of sales and marketing for Cornell Athletics, said that the University had “learned a lesson,” adding:

This has been a learning opportunity for me and for our marketing group, and we are committed to working with our community so this does not occur again.

So all is forgiven, right? Surely you jest. Members of the Latino community refuse to be bought off with a mere apology, which they agreed lacked transparency and was insufficient. Francisco Rodriguez ’14 said:

This speaks to a broader issue of how hierarchy and bureaucracy allow for athletic departments at elite universities to behave as they wish without much accountability. What is going to happen to Ezra’s Army, [a group that describes itself on Facebook as being the official student fan club of Cornell Athletics] … as a result of this? … any form of education?

Another senior, Stephanie Martinez (whose relationship to Carmen Martinez, if any, is unstated), echoed the sentiment:

If the people that have a lot of say in what happens at this school can’t tell when something is inappropriate, we have a problem. My first question was how did this get so far without anyone noticing that this could be hurtful to people on campus, people that are supposed to be part of this ‘inclusive’ community? This definitely tainted the idea of community at Cornell. [Emphasis added]

One might argue that Martinez and company do have a problem, and it stems from their overreaction to inappropriateness and the ease with which their feelings are hurt.

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LU Staff

LU Staff

Promoting and defending liberty, as defined by the nation’s founders, requires both facts and philosophical thought, transcending all elements of our culture, from partisan politics to social issues, the workings of government, and entertainment and off-duty interests. Liberty Unyielding is committed to bringing together voices that will fuel the flame of liberty, with a dialogue that is lively and informative.


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