A new Corpus Christi JCR Charities initiative has prompted controversy and an apology following some students’ concern over its approach.
‘Swaggy-B’ is a ‘charity bear’ available for students to loan for £5 in a fund-raising endeavour by the College’s Charities Rep. However, some members of the college felt that the “sick mofo” could be seen as an offensive stereotyping of African-American culture.
At last night’s JCR meeting, following open discussion of its potentially harmful effects, the Charities Rep read aloud a personal apology for any unintentional offence.
The email introducing ‘Swaggy-B’ in 0th week contained a dialogue between the bear and the Charities Rep, in which the bear announced his intention to “make his mama bear proud”. The Charities Rep suggested he help the College to fundraise, and the bear was to be homed in the Porters Lodge.
The bear also has a Facebook page with 62 likes from College members, which includes photos of ‘Swaggy-B’ with several Corpus students at his first outing to the College’s 0th week bop. However, an online debate between college members on various interpretations of the bear’s characterisation led to the Charities Rep reconsidering the bear’s styling and apologising to the JCR in person.
Blessing Inyang, a Corpus PPE finalist and former BME Rep, commented: “The initial email prompted a general discussion about the social effects of language, and how cultural contexts relate to specific language identification. I thought it was great that we could have this discussion in such an open manner.”
In a statement, Corpus JCR President Erika Pheby said the Charities Rep “explained the situation very courteously” during the JCR meeting.
“Our Rag and Charities Rep came up with the idea of a mascot to help to support a new charity fundraising initiative by the JCR. Due to the styling of the mascot, one or two members thought that the tone could be misinterpreted and suggested that she reconsider the way the character had been developed.”
“The Rep was only too happy to do this, but wanted to go further and apologise in case she had caused any unintended offence. Although her colleagues felt this was unnecessary, she explained the situation very courteously to our meeting and I am happy with the understanding, constructive way our members approached the matter – one which we now regard as closed.”