A letter sent out by residential advisors at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, claims that jokes about Harambe, the gorilla that died in an incident at the Cinnicinati Zoo in May, are a “direct attack” on the school’s African-American community, as well as a potential violation of Title IX regulations.
After tributes to Harambe began to appear on a whiteboard in a residence hall, two residential advisors sent out an email essentially banning mentions of the beloved gorilla in the dormitory. The advisors, identified as Colleen and Ryan, claimed that Harambe jokes are racist and an attack of Amherst’s African-American population due to the fact that the university’s residential community for African-Americans shares its name with the now famous Western lowland gorilla.
“Any negative remarks regarding ‘Harambe’ will be seen as a direct attack to our campus’s African American community,” they said. “Please be careful what gets written on your whiteboards, as well as what gets written on them. If you are not the one writing these remarks, please let us or the RA on duty know.”
Colleen and Ryan also claimed that the use of the “Dicks Out for Harambe” meme, which was started by an online comedian and echoed by celebrities like actor Danny Trejo, could potentially be a violation of Title IX sexual assault regulations.”To be very clear: using… phrases/hashtags which encourage the exposition of body parts runs the risk of being reported as a Title IX incident. These are sexual assault incidences that not only get reported to Community Standards, but also to the Dean of Students. Needless to say, it is a very serious incident—especially for a first-year student!”
You can read the entirety of the email sent to UMass-Amherst students below:
Hello Syc 3 residents! I hope you are all enjoying your first weekend at UMass. In case you forgot. this is Ryan and Colleen, tie floor RAs.
We wanted to take a moment to address some phrases that are being written on the whiteboards–specifically, ones involving “Harambe.”
We understand that social media has been popularizing Harambe in some crude ways. which may appear as funny to groups of people. However, these comments are not only derogatory, but also micro-aggressions to some UMass Students. Similar to RAPs (Residential Academic Programs). UMass also offers “Defined Residential Communities” (or DRPs), in which groups of students sharing similar heritages. ethnicities. and/or identities are able to live together.
We offer a DRP focusing on African-American heritage, and it is called the “Harambe” floor. “Harambe” is actually a Swahili word, which stands for “the point where people pull together.” It has a very positive connotations, bit current social media has been misrepresenting it. The floor has been in existence for many years, so any negative remarks regarding “Harambe” will be seen as a direct attack to our campus’s African-American community. Please be careful of what gets written on your whiteboards. as well as what you write on them. If you are not the one writing these remarks. please let us or the RA on duty know.
To be very clear: using popularizes phrases/hashtags which encourage the exposition of body parts runs the risk of being reported as a Title IX incident. These are sexual assault incidences that not only get reported to Community Standards, but also to the Dean of Students. Needless to say. it is a very serious incident–especially for a firs- year student!
Anyways. please be safe this weekend, and watch out for any of these phrases. We need to be sure to respect all UMass community members.
Let us know if you have any questions/concerns. –Colleen & Ryan
Infamous pharmaceutical industry executive Martin Shkreli was recently asked by CBS News to stop making jokes about Harambe. In response, Shkreli claimed that Harambe “memes” are bringing more attention to the importance of rights for non-human primates.
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity for Breitbart. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org