Flyers posted on the entrances of the Wesleyan student center during a recent Hindu religious ceremony have prompted Hindu statesman Rajan Zed to issue a strongly worded statement in Nevada this week. But university officials say the notices were the result of a student's impulsiveness.
Approximately 300 students participated in the Holi event on campus April 27. The vast majority of the participants were not Hindus, but were excited to share in this cultural opportunity, according to David Pesci, Wesleyan Director of Media Relations and Public Relations.
Hindus are upset at the offensive posters which appeared on the campus of suggesting that students who have been celebrating Hindu festival of Holi were not allowed in Usdan, “a focal point of activity” on campus, according to Zed.
Pesci says the celebration was outside near the very new Usdan student center. "The dean of students asked those who were participating not to come into the student center building immediately after the event as he didn’t want the colored power getting all over the floors, furniture and walls of the building’s interior," Pesci said.
In a statement, Zed said Wesleyan President Dr. Michael S. Roth and Board of Trustees Chair Joshua S. Boger should "immediately apologize for these posters which were very insensitive to the students and others who celebrated the popular Hindu festival of color and it was belittling of the entire community."
The posters, saying, “No Colored People Allowed in Usdan,” Zed argued, were "highly offensive to all people of color and were thus clearly unacceptable in a civilized society."
But Pesci said apologies were immediately issued to the campus community, the first of which was by the student who put up the signs. "The student was horrified at the response by some people and extremely contrite. That student also met with the dean of students and members of our diversity office. It was ascertained that the student bore no ill will or racist intent with the signs; rather, it was a case of very poor judgment," Pesci said.
Roth was away during the event and upon return issued an apology by email to entire Wesleyan community, which said, in part:
“Wesleyan’s campus is a place of great multi-cultural learning and festivity. The Holi event is a wonderful example of this. The campus can also be a place of vulnerability and misperception, and the signs posted on Friday for many evoked patterns of injustice and violence that our society has not yet left behind.
"I am hopeful that this incident will remind us of the active legacies of oppression all around us, while it also helps us recall that people make mistakes even in communities most embracing of cultural differences. Our campus is a work in progress. Let’s use this incident to learn from one another in a context of mutual acknowledgement and respect,” Roth wrote.
The joie de vivre festival of Holi welcomes the beginning of spring and starts about 10 days before the full moon of Phalguna. The ceremonies include the lighting of the bonfires, during which all evils are symbolically burnt. Holi also commemorates the frolics of youthful Lord Krishna; celebrates the death of demoness Putana, burning of demoness Holika, and destruction of Kama by Lord Shiva. Actual Holi fell on March eight this year, Zed said.