“American BBQ” Attracts National Attention

Photo courtesy of James Montgomery Flagg, Wikipedia

Ramapo College made recent national headlines with controversy over an American-themed barbecue.

CampusReform.org published an article on Tuesday claiming, “Students at Ramapo College were recently forced to change the theme of an ‘American BBQ’ because the administration deemed it too ‘offensive.’”

The article reached Fox national news on Wednesday as well as NJ 101.5, NJ.com, MRCTV and Mahwah Patch.

College Republicans President and senior, Taylor Gilson, stated that Bischoff Hall reached out to the College Republicans to co-sponsor the event. Gilson said that shortly before the event, she was notified that Bischoff Hall no longer needed their involvement.

“Two days before the barbecue we were told by a Bischoff RA that the American theme was considered ‘offensive’ by administration,” said Gilson.

The event’s Uncle Sam posters were cited as a possible source of the controversy. According to the Campus Reform article, the Uncle Sam posters advertising the event were seen as militaristic and focused on recruitment.

The barbecue’s posters had an image of Uncle Sam with the caption, “We want you…to come to our BBQ.”

The college emailed a statement to all students from the Office of Communications and Public Affairs. The email stated that the news articles “incorrectly characterized the involvement of Ramapo’s administration in a recent student-organized barbecue that also promoted voter registration and active citizenship.”

The email also stated that students were never pressured to cancel the event. It said that the Uncle Sam image “is routinely used in promotional materials on our campus.”

“We regret that there was confusion around a staff member’s direction to student organizers to broaden the barbecue’s marketing message,” the email stated.

The event still took place as a Back-to-School Barbecue with American flags as part of the event decorations.

“The purpose of the barbecue was not affected, nor was it ever, threatened to be cancelled. In fact, the end result was one that the College desired, over 300 students attended a voter registration drive and civic participation event that all agree was successful,” said the email.

Gilson stated that the Dean of Students, Melissa Van Der Wall, met with her and the College Republican's vice president.

“She was very supportive of us and insisted that this would never happen with any of our future events,” said Gilson.