Resident assistants at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst termed references to Harambe as illegal, racist “microaggressions.” The University of Massachusetts-Lowell countered by giving away mini-Harambes to fans of their men’s soccer team.
UMass-Lowell held “Harambe Night” on Wednesday at Cushing Field. “Join us in celebrating the life of Harambe,” the promotional material explained. “The first 100 students will receive a stuffed gorilla to commemorate the life of the legendary Harambe.”
Spectators wore gorilla suits and received miniature Harambe dolls. More than 900 fans, some dressed for the affair, watched the River Hawks defeat the Brown Bears 2-1.
“I wear this thing around randomly sometimes, honestly,” a student in a gorilla costume told New England Cable News. He divulged, “I was thinking of camping out here, honestly. That’s how bad I wanted to be here.”
The tribute to the gorilla euthanized at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child got into its enclosure contrasted sharply with attempts to suppress references to the silver-back ape at the UMass flagship campus 75 miles southwest.
Resident assistants at UMass-Amherst earlier this month informed students that “any negative remarks regarding ‘Harambe’ will be seen as a direct attack on our campus’s African-American community.” The RAs termed “Harambe” references as “not only derogatory, but also microaggressions to some UMass Students” and possible Title IX violations as well.
But far from the Pioneer Valley college town in the more blue-collar former mill community, Harambe means fun rather than a fuss. The school’s PR department pleaded ignorance to the controversy at their sister school.
“Our marketing initiatives are designed to respond in a positive and fun way to student interests,” UMass-Lowell informed in a statement. “The name Harambe stands for bringing people together and that was our focus. However, we were not aware the issue had become controversial on another campus or that some online tributes to Harambe had been co-opted in inappropriate ways by Internet users not associated with our campus. UMass Lowell is committed to being an inclusive community for all.”