Students Protest Free Camel Rides On Campus

05/18/2014 09:51 pm ET

The University of St. Thomas in Minnesota planned to bring a camel to campus to celebrate "hump day," until some students started protesting it online.

It was just supposed to be a fun event, not tied to anything besides which day of the week it was, all put on by the Residence Hall Association at the Catholic university.

For those who don't get the connection, Wednesday is known as "hump day" for being in the middle of the week, and a camel has a hump. (Ya know, like the annoying Geico commercial.)

But after a small student protest on Facebook, the University of St. Thomas canceled the event.

The original plan was to bring the camel to the St. Paul campus May 14 and turn the quad into “a petting zoo type of atmosphere,” [RHA Adviser Aaron] Macke said. The camel, he noted, is trained for events like these and owned by a local vendor.

In fact, last December St. Thomas brought a reindeer to campus (also hired locally) for the same purpose. No protests ensued.

Macke said he’s not sure who started the Facebook page, but last week it was bristling with indignant comments. Some suggested the event was disparaging to Middle Eastern cultures, an example of animal cruelty and even environmentally unfriendly. “I think they thought the camel was coming from another part of the world,” he said, “[and] it would be bad for our carbon footprint.” Others simply objected to the cost. (Macke said the fee, about $500, was coming from a social event fund.)

Some students felt using a camel, which is also associated with traveling through the desert in Africa and the Middle East, would be racially insensitive.

"I respectfully disagree," senior Ryan Nolan told TommieMedia. "A camel does not ‘degrade or simplify’ our view of Middle Eastern culture. That would be like saying that turkeys simplify people’s view of America. People wanted to see the camel because it looks cool and because of a pop-culture reference in no way relating to Middle Eastern culture."

As far as the animal cruelty aspect, that doesn't hold up either, according to TommieMedia columnist Anne Gaslin:

Sure, that’s an important issue that needs attention, and it often is linked with the domestication of animals. But the camel would have been fine on campus. We’re all adults here; it’s not like any students were going to punch it in the hump. Its safety wouldn’t be jeopardized. Even though the protesters succeeded in getting the event canceled, the camel is still going to be used for this exact same kind of event, just elsewhere.

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