Fact Check

College Threatened to Cancel 'Offensive' America-Themed BBQ Event?

Ramapo College officials in New Jersey deny they threatened to cancel a event over its patriotic imagery.

Published Sep 23, 2016

 (KraeheMicha, Creative Commons)
Image Via KraeheMicha, Creative Commons
Officials at Ramapo College forced students to change an "offensive" patriotic barbecue event.
What's True

Communication between campus groups shows there was at least the belief that some "offense" was taken to the event's theme.

What's Undetermined

The exact wording given to students planning the event, and whether or not it was the result of a simple misunderstanding.

On 20 September 2016, a college-themed publication called Campus Reform published a story reporting that administrators at Ramapo College (a small public institution in New Jersey) had forced students to change the patriotic theme of a barbecue event because it was deemed "offensive."

As proof, Campus Reform published e-mails reportedly obtained from members of campus organizations who were involved with the event. The e-mails, however, don't provide any definitive details as to where the purported directive came from, or why it was made:

According to emails obtained by Campus Reform, Ariana Rivera, the Assistant Residence Director of Bischoff Hall, sent an email to the College Republicans and the College Democrats on August 17 inviting the groups to co-sponsor an American-themed BBQ with Bischoff and Mackin Halls.

The proposal called for the CRs and CDs to run tables for their respective organizations at the event, as well as encouraging students to register to vote, and CR President Taylor Gilson responded almost immediately to affirm that her group would participate.

However, on September 14, just two days before the scheduled event, Rivera wrote to Gilson, again, this time regretfully explaining that Bischoff Hall would no longer be co-sponsoring with the CRs because the American theme was “considered offensive.”

However, when Rivera was questioned about how the American theme was considered offensive and where the concerns came from, she was unsure of who made the statement and why it was made:

I think it was administrative. I was told that our advertising was too ‘military and recruitment-oriented,’ because we had the Uncle Sam saying ‘I want you…’ I think? However, we saw other posters with that same idea, so I really don't know.

According to the college, the Campus Reform article was inaccurate. Ramapo officials posted on the school's Facebook page that the incident was the result of a misunderstanding, and that a request from officials was regarding the marketing  appeal of the event. They also said the event went forward as planned and was not cancelled:

An online collegiate website yesterday incorrectly characterized the involvement of Ramapo’s administration in a recent student-organized barbecue that also promoted voter registration and active citizenship. The article stated that student groups at the College were pressured by the administration with cancellation of the barbecue if the marketing was not made more inclusive. This is not true.

We regret that there was confusion around a staff member’s direction to student organizers to broaden the barbecue’s marketing message. This direction, however, did not change the event’s intended goals.

The predictably inflammatory angle of oversensitive and politically-correct college students shunning a patriotic theme for an event has been shared widely on political web sites, but the e-mails provided don't prove that students were pressured by college to administrators to either change the theme or be forced cancel the event. If the e-mails obtained by Campus Reform are legitimate, however, they do seem to show that at least one student involved with planning the event believed that to be the case.


Athey, Amber. "America-themed BBQ 'considered offensive' at Ramapo."   Campus Reform. 20 September 2016.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.