Fraternity Forced to Cancel Veterans’ Fundraiser for ‘Appropriating Culture’ with Event’s Name

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By Lukas Mikelionis | 7:11 am, April 20, 2017

A fraternity at American University in Washington was forced to cancel a fundraising event for military veterans based around the racket sport of badminton after the faculty became worried that its name could be “appropriating culture.”

According to the fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu, the name chosen for the fundraiser was “Bad(minton) and Boujee,” after the popular song “Bad and Boujee” by Migos. It was hoped this would spur interest, Campus Reform reported.

The group was trying to raise money for an organization called Armor Down that reintegrates military veterans back into society and provides help for veterans with mental health problems.

President of the fraternity Rocco Cimino claimed the name was meant as nothing more than a bit of fun, especially since the sport of badminton is “not exactly the most exciting thing in the world.”

“We were trying to plan a philanthropy event that incorporated a sport, as those typically perform much better on our campus,” he told the site. “Unfortunately, pretty much every sport we could think of was taken. We settled on badminton because we could use Migos’s ‘Bad and Boujee’ as a play on words to generate buzz.”

Soon after making plans for the event, Assistant Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life Colin Gerker emailed the fraternity saying the name shouldn’t be used as it could be perceived as cultural appropriation.

“I suspect that this event name will be criticized for the use of ‘boujee,’” Gerker wrote. “I know it’s a colloquial term and is popular via Migos, but we have had groups get reamed for appropriating culture before related to situations like this.”

The Assistant Director also added that the name must be changed if the group wished to secure approval for the fundraiser, advising the frat that it’s better to avoid event titles related to “gender, culture, or sexuality.”

“I want to continue empowering a culture of controversy prevention among FSL groups, and give y’all the opportunity to edit before we move forward,” he wrote. “The event will not be approved in [AU’s database for requesting venues] until you/your group comes back with a new name.”

The President of the fraternity told Gerker they were “perplexed” by the advice to change the title of the event, reasoning that it could only be cultural appropriation if they were mimicking the themes in the popular song.

The Assistant Director, however, insisted on forcing the fraternity to change the title, saying he received complaints over the event name. He declined to provide examples of these complaints to the fraternity.

“As I suspected, and was hopeful we would not run into this, but I ended up receiving multiple complaints over about the title of the event in the last week, and University Center is indicating that they would request you all to change the title,” Gerker wrote.

The upshot is that Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity has officially cancelled the event, citing problems with not having “enough time to promote/raise money for the event”.

The group also released a statement on their Facebook page explaining why the event was cancelled, including the administration’s insistence to change its name and not responding to the fraternity in a timely manner.

“This is a cause we take very seriously as Armor Down was founded by Benjamin King, an alumnus of our chapter and current chapter adviser,” they wrote. “We would not make a mockery of an event intended to benefit such an organization by dressing up.”

The fraternity has instead started a GoFundMe page for anyone interested in donating to Armor Down organization that helps veterans.