Chiquito have been asked not to hand out sombreros at Freshers fairs this week, as they are deemed to promote ‘cultural stereotypes’.
A representative from the Chiquito stand, who did not wish to be named, told Redbrick that she was told ‘immediately’ by Guild staff not to hand out the sombreros they had brought along.
‘We were going to ask students to tweet a picture of themself with the cardboard cut-out, and then give them a sombrero, phone charger and a discount card.
‘It was just going to be a fun thing for students, but we’ve been asked not to hand the sombrebros out,’ she said.
This summer Chiquito will visit 22 universities in the UK to promote their discounted food and cocktails to students. A spokesperson from the stall today said that the University of Birmingham was the only one not to ask for an advanced list of promotional materials they intended to hand out. However, once the team arrived to set up for the Freshers stall this week, they were told not to hand out sombreros as the hats enforce ‘cultural stereotypes’.
Chiquito, who were at both Freshers events on the Guild Underground lawn this Monday and Tuesday, had planned to hand out 1,000 sombrero hats over the two days. No other Students Unions had asked the team not to hand out any particular promotional item at similar Freshers events.
However, students at UoB who shared a picture of themselves with a lifesize cut-out of a Latin American dancer received a pair of sunglasses with a small black moustache attached from Chiquito. The Guild had not specified that Chiquito should not hand out small sombrero-shaped discount cards or mustachioed sunglasses.
Students who turned up at the Guild Freshers club night wearing sombreros yesterday evening were asked to remove them. This was met with some protest from students, who had worn the hats as part of fancy dress for the event.
Students have reacted with a mixture of surprise, acceptance and defiance of the Guild’s policy. Melody Jap-Sam, a Sociology undergraduate on an Erasmus year from Amsterdam, told Redbrick, ‘I don’t think it’s racist, people wearing sombreros aren’t trying to make fun of Mexicans. We shouldn’t deny differences in cultures, but we should recognise what is to be celebrated about other cultures.’
A first year history student felt that the Guild were taking the ‘safe’ option of enforcing a blanket ban on any costume that could be interpreted as offensive. He deemed the policy, ‘an over-reaction’ borne out of ‘being scared of being called racist’.
The story comes after the Guild of Students announced a ban on ‘racist’ Mexican-themed costumes at Halloween in November 2013. At the time, several students were prevented from entering a Guild-run party wearing a poncho, mustache and sombrero.
At the time, the Guild released a statement reiterating its ‘zero tolerance policy against all forms of harassment to include racism, ageism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia and transphobia.’ The Guild stressed their belief that ‘some fancy dress can be deemed offensive when considering the zero tolerance policy.’
Jack Mably, Guild President, told Redbrick: ‘The Guild has a Zero Tolerance Policy against the use of offensive stereotypes on campus and in our communities, a policy passed by students in Guild Council.
‘In light of this, past events involving fancy dress (in particular sombreros), and the strength of student feeling around this issue, the Guild and our Officers decided that it would be inappropriate to have any commercial activity at Freshers’ Fair that could prove offensive to any of our members.’