From Glenn Reynolds’s current USA Today column, I learn of a story in our back yard on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul: the cancellation of a therapeutic Hump Day. KSTP/Eyewitness News reports that Hump Day was to have featured a camel brought to campus for petting. Petting the camel was to “help relieve stress for students as they study for exams, said school spokesman Jim Winterer.”
What was the problem? I would like to say, well, you can imagine, but you can’t:
[A]ngry students protested on Facebook and blogs. They gained enough momentum to be mentioned on Fox News Channel and several national news outlets.
The university didn’t think anything of the petting zoo at first, Winterer said. The school brought in a reindeer in December at the end of first semester and the event was well-received, Winterer said.
Some students said it would have been a poor use of the university’s money. Others felt the event was a form of animal cruelty and disrespectful to the animal. Others felt it was racially or religiously motivated.
Winterer said the school’s reason for canceling the event was after all the hype, “it wasn’t going to be fun anymore.”
“It wasn’t going to be fun anymore.” Indeed. You can say that again. KSTP reports that Winterer gave the following statement on behalf of the university:
The Residence Hall Association, a student organization at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., arranged to bring a camel to campus from a vendor located north of St. Paul on May 14 for an end-of-semester, petting-zoo-type event for students.
When the event was announced, some students wrote Facebook comments protesting the visit, suggesting the event would not be a good use of funds, would promote a negative carbon footprint, and would remove an animal from its “natural habitat.”
It was never the university’s intent to make a political or cultural statement of any kind by bringing a camel to campus. In light of the negative comments, it was clear that the camel’s visit would no longer be simply a fun, stress-reducing activity for students as originally intended. At that point, the university decided to cancel the event.
The good news is that St. Paul’s Como Zoo remains open, at the other end of town and therefore a safe distance from the campus of the University of St. Thomas. I’m not sure whether its camel is still on hand, but the giraffe and gorilla remain on display without too much controversy.