Widgets Magazine

Ujamaa staff and residents walk out of Gaieties, two groups schedule talks

In response to content they found offensive and insensitive, four staff members and 32 residents of Ujamaa walked out of the last Gaieties performance of Big Game Week on Nov. 19, prompting plans of talks between the two parties to discuss concerns and how to move forward.

This year's Gaieties offended some audience members, causing four Ujamaa staff members and 32 Ujamaa residents to walk out 45 minutes into the show. (JENNY CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Ujamaa resident assistant (RA) Robbie Zimbroff ’12 called the portrayals of certain characters in the show “limited,” saying they “made people feel undervalued” and didn’t fairly represent the Stanford community. Zimbroff and Yvorn Aswad-Thomas ’11, another Ujamaa RA, pointed to the show program’s “lexicon” list, portrayals of Native Americans as visibly intoxicated and an ad-libbed line about dressing up for a party as “Rosa-Parks black” as a few examples that led to the group walking out of the performance about 45 minutes into the show.

But both Zimbroff and Aswad-Thomas said it wasn’t just specific moments but an overall inappropriate attitude that the walkout meant to highlight.

“A lot of content throughout the show was insensitive and put off a lot of kids,” Zimbroff said. Aswad-Thomas added that the show was “alienating,” saying it “showed a kind of blindness we have when engaging in issues of diversity…a lot of residents felt strongly offended by the images in the show.”

This year’s Gaieties producer, Rachel Lindee ’12, emphasized that the lexicon spoofed on all groups on campus, not just selected ones, and that in writing and editing the script for the show, she and director Emily Goldwyn ’11 focused on being mindful of the “fine line” between Gaieties’ tradition of being a “politically incorrect, hilariously over-the-top musical extravaganza,” according to the Ram’s Head Theatrical Society website, and being unnecessarily offensive.

“It was important for us that while our show crosses boundaries, as is tradition of Gaieties, it did not overstep them in a hurtful or mean-spirited manner,” Lindee wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.

The Ram’s Head board of directors has been in talks with Ujamaa staff and has scheduled a meeting to discuss concerns, Lindee said. In a letter to the editor of The Daily, the board apologized for offending audience members and said it would hold a town hall in winter quarter on the same topic.

Zimbroff and Aswad-Thomas were both in favor of continued talks.

“We don’t want this to have been a passive disagreement,” Zimbroff said. “The goal is to have people reflect on their own and collective ways we can create and reshape the understanding of the Stanford community.”

“Gaieties is meant to unite Stanford together,” Aswad-Thomas added. “How can it achieve that goal if people don’t want to go to this show because they feel they won’t be represented?”

Before being performed, the script for Gaieties undergoes approval by the Ram’s Head board and various University officials. This year, according to Lindee, the script was sent to Dean of Religious Life Scotty McLennan and to “an ASSU officer who had a cameo in the show.”

Zimbroff added that he felt it was the responsibility of the administration to reflect on the issue.

Zimbroff and Aswad-Thomas felt the show’s portrayals of certain groups could be damaging to diversity efforts on campus, especially to freshmen, but Lindee said the show addresses diversity in its own way.

“The fact of the matter is that disturbing and divisive stereotypes do exist on campus,” she said. “The way Gaieties deals with them is by portraying these stereotypes in an outlandishly over-the-top manner, not only to generate discussion, but also to combat them by unifying the entire student body through laughter.” Lindee also added that Gaieties strives to be “even-handed” in its portrayals, making an effort not to exclude or include any group unfairly.

But intentions are separate from perceptions, Aswad-Thomas noted.

“The words I use might seem funny, but some of my fellow Cards might not see it that way,” he said.

About Ellen Huet

Ellen Huet is currently a senior staff writer at The Daily; she joined the staff in fall 2008 and served one volume as managing news editor in fall and early winter of 2010-2011. Reach her at ehuet at stanford dot edu. Fan mail and sternly worded complaints are equally welcome.
  • Grow Up

    From an outsider, the Gaieties mission has always seemed to be to insult everyone and everything. It’s a glorified roast. Any one person can go into Gaieties and be offended on so, so many levels. That’s part of the point.

    This is like Jesse Jackson yelling “racism” whenever he finds a little pet project. It weakens the argument when there’s ACTUALLY stuff to get offended over.

    I’m disappointed in the Gaieties staff for bending over backwards to apologize. Tell people to suck it up: Gaieties has been like this since I’ve been on campus, and likely long, long before. They don’t like it? Tough.

    A final point: I have a hard time imagining that freshmen had much of a role in orchestrating a walk out. This sounds like a staff manipulating their freshmen–we all know the power of a frosh RA–in order to make a point.

    Now, if we want to talk about things Gaieties can improve, let’s try for leads who can actually sing on an average, mediocre level, as opposed to the atrocious verbal bombardment we heard two weeks ago. That’d be a start.

    But seriously, Uj (and honestly, Ram’s Head): Grow up.

  • Recent Alum

    This year’s Gaieties was perfectly consistent with what the majority of the audience loves about the show. It is funny at everyone’s expense. I was at the show that night when Ujamaa walked out of the show and it wasn’t 32 people, it might have been a dozen. Seriously, if you don’t have a sense of humor or if it just doesn’t appeal to you, then don’t go.

    Should we censor the humorous look at ourselves that Gaieties provides us because a small and apparently inflated group has decided on our behalf that we can’t handle it? Why is it that Gaieties is so well attended year after year? I will give you a hint… not because it is a sanitized politically correct look at Stanford life!

    This doesn’t mean that there aren’t boundaries, just that you shouldn’t set them so tight that you obliterate the entertainment value. I fear that Zimbroff and Aswad-Thomas would seek to have every student and student group have veto power over the Gaieties production. The good news is that there would be little or no student demand to see their version of Gaieties!

    Come now humorless people… I am sure that you have something else that you could do on a Friday night… well maybe not!

  • Freshman RA

    It seems that this situation is the fault of the Ujamaa staff for not properly preparing their students for what they would see in Gaieties. This year’s script was no more offensive, raunchy or politically incorrect than in years past. It is a well known, understood and accepted fact that Gaieties is filled with over-the-top jokes that will poke fun at our campus and many of the groups that exist here. It is the job of freshman RAs to explain the nature of Gaieties and prepare the freshmen for what they will see.
    As a freshman RA myself this year, I was sure to warn my residents of what they would see before we attended the show. I explained that if they felt they would be offended by this type of humor, than Gaieties was probably not the show for them. And there is nothing wrong with choosing not to attend. Most of my residents did attend the show and enjoyed it to the fullest. They were fully prepared for what they would hear and they were able to understand that everything said in Gaieties is all in good fun and good humor.

  • ASSU

    I know that no ASSU officer approved this script. It was shown to one of us (and he thought it was offensive material, which is why he didn’t choose to be in the play) but there was no approval given.

    I think conversations need to be had (and am glad to see they are) about the content and what climate it creates for our broader campus community.

  • Scotty McLennan

    I was surprised to see in today’s Stanford Daily article about Gaieties that I was cited by Producer Rachel Lindee as having approved the script. I did nothing of the kind. In both an e-mail exchange with Rams Head Executive Producer Michael Rooney and in a meeting in my office with him and Ms. Lindee, I was asked for feedback on the material, but not “to sign off on this.” I was specifically told that I was not to be put “in a situation in which you imply some material is acceptable” in the Gaities script. I explained that the show had the potential to be extremely offensive to many students on campus. I noted how the kind of religious, ethnic and racial humor in the script can be experienced as very disrespectful, hurtful and divisive. I added that it’s certainly not what Stanford is trying to promote in terms of pluralism as we train global leaders for the 21st century. Mr. Rooney responded that they were re-working the script, genuinely seeking to proceed in such a way as “to promote pluralism and intercultural understanding within the confines of this tradition.”
    –Scotty McLennan, Dean for Religious Life

  • for the record

    It doesn’t actually say that the ASSU officer or Dean McLennan “approved” the script, just that it was sent to them.

  • Black Alum on the East Coast that is NOT laughing

    I thought the purpose of Big Game Gaities was to make fun of our rival cal? Not fellow Stanford students.
    To the young producer, welcome to the real world. You know now of the consequences and fall-out that can happen when you ‘assume’ certain things. There would have been a time when some black students would have taken to the stage and truly shut things down.

  • Senior

    @for the record
    True, but it should probably be clarified in the article that neither person had approved the script, as the sentence in the article can be a bit misleading.

    I’ve only been to Gaities once my frosh year, but I have to agree with Freshman RA: they probably should have warned the frosh what kind of content Gaities has every year. My year, there were a several jokes on Azia Kim and I think Okada, if I remember correctly (I’m Asian). I didn’t take offense, but I know that others that year were offended.

  • Freedom of Speech

    @ black alum: It is apparent that one of the reasons we are having this discussion in the first place is that people such as yourself, “assume” certain things about Gaieties and its purpose on this campus. Perhaps you have not seen Gaieties or do not clearly recall, but it is tradition that the show makes fun of both Cal AND Stanford students. It is also a tradition that the show does so in a politically incorrect and over-the-top manner. If this is news to you, that some Stanford students can actually handle and oh-my-god—ENJOY–being “made fun of,” then welcome to the real world yourself. And if you need further proof, take a look at scripts of years past. http://www.stanford.edu/group/rams-head/cgi-bin/new.php?page=archives&show=gaieties

    Apparently though, as you and others amongst a select campus-population have so egregiously asserted, this year, the nearly 100 year old tradition of poking fun at every group on campus is suddenly not ok anymore. What has this University come to if at the end of the day we can’t step back and LAUGH at ourselves anymore? I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I love Stanford as much as I do is that it is free-spirited and open enough to producing a show–a Stanford TRADITION, that for the past however many years, encourages putting aside problem-sets for two hours to laugh at ourselves, together, as a community, and celebrate how ridiculous each and everyone of us is, even if we do tend to take ourselves a bit too seriously. If you’re too oversensitive and politically correct to enjoy that, then just don’t come, but don’t make the rest of us comply to your insecurity. Complain all you want. That’s freedom of speech. But don’t deny GAIETIES’ its own freedom of speech.

  • bobo

    STOP DELETING MY COMMENTS! This is unacceptable. I made a post and then around 30 minutes later, Ellie Titus, the current editor in chief deleted them without warning. This has happened continuously over the last couple of weeks whenever I post anything critical about an article.

  • john

    Too many people in American society are searching for a reason to be offended.

    To Scotty McLennan’s post: It is duly noted that you are a 100% politically correct kind of guy.

  • Freedom of Speech

    @ black alum: It is apparent that one of the reasons we are having this discussion in the first place is that people such as yourself, “assume” certain things about Gaieties and its purpose on this campus. Perhaps you have not seen Gaieties or do not clearly recall, but it is tradition that the show makes fun of both Cal AND Stanford students. It is also a tradition that the show does so in a politically incorrect and over-the-top manner. If this is news to you, that some Stanford students can actually handle and oh-my-god—ENJOY–being “made fun of,” then welcome to the real world yourself. And if you need further proof, take a look at scripts of years past. http://www.stanford.edu/group/rams-head/cgi-bin/new.php?page=archives&show=gaieties

    Apparently though, as you and others amongst a select campus-population have so egregiously asserted, this year, the nearly 100 year old tradition of poking fun at every group on campus is suddenly not ok anymore. What has this University come to if at the end of the day we can’t step back and LAUGH at ourselves anymore? I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I love Stanford as much as I do is that it is free-spirited and open enough to producing a show–a Stanford TRADITION, that for the past however many years, encourages putting aside problem-sets for two hours to laugh at ourselves, together, as a community, and celebrate how ridiculous each and everyone of us is, even if we do tend to take ourselves a bit too seriously. If you’re too oversensitive and politically correct to enjoy that, then just don’t come, but don’t make the rest of us comply to your insecurity. Complain all you want. That’s freedom of speech. But don’t deny GAIETIES’ its own freedom of speech.

  • Michael Tubbs

    Stanford do better. There is no excuse at all that justifies making fellow Cardinal students feel marginalized and ridiculed at any time- much less a time of school pride!

    It’s incredibly counter-productive to try to unite a campus as one against a rival by continuing to poke fun at groups who not so long ago were not a part of Stanford, and in many cases (and for reasons like this one) still might not feel that Stanford is fully theirs.

    I’m all for comedy in good taste, and thankfully I did not attend Gaities this year, but I’m sure the nation’s most brilliant students can figure out how to be funny without being overly offensive and bigoted.

  • Ban Gaities!!!

    I am so offended at Gaieties, I can barely control myself. I am a proud Stanford Zoroastrian, and we WERE NOT made fun of at Gaieties. Gaieties made fun of just about every single race religion and creed EXCEPT for Zoroastrians.

    What, are we not gooood enough for you Gaieties? Huh? Are we so marginal in society that we’re not even worthy of racial banter. Black people, at least you guys were made fun of. At least you have reached a level in the Stanford Society and have been accepted to a level that people felt comfortable making fun of you. But us Zoroastrians, we feel neglected, like we are so irrelevant that we’re not even worth making fun of.

    Hey everyone reading this post, I bet you wouldn’t even know how to make fun of a Zoroastrian. Yeah, that’s pathetic. We call ourselves diverse at Stanford, but we don’t even know enough about each other to make jokes.

    THIS MUST CHANGE

  • FloMo Pride!

    I LOVE that Gaieties empowered us SLEople to stop taking ourselves so seriously and laugh every once in awhile. It’s cool to get made fun of for being brilliant =)

  • Gaby

    1-“Making fun” of those who have been and still are systematically oppressed is not the same as “making fun” of those who are not, a nuance that seems to be overlooked in this discussion.

    2- When are we going to stop using tradition, comedy, art (all of the forms that seem to, apparently, be excused critical) as an excuse to perpetuate racism, sexism, oppression, etc.? Students of color, women, those who have been underrepresented in Stanford history, have not historically played a part in forming this ‘tradition’. However, we are now a part of this community and our concerns should not be dismissed. Rather they should be considered as constructive input so that a long-running Stanford performance can more accurately represent, and unify its current student body.

    3- Just as part of the student body has a right to put on an insensitive performance, the rest of the student body has a right to go, walkout, and talk about it as much as it wants.

  • @for the record

    “Before being performed, the script for Gaieties undergoes approval by the Ram’s Head board and various University officials. This year, according to Lindee, the script was sent to Dean of Religious Life Scotty McLennan and to “an ASSU officer who had a cameo in the show.””

    Are you sure it really doesn’t say that an ASSU officer and Scotty McLennan approved it? As evidenced above, it doesn’t seem that they did, but the article certainly makes it seem like that.

  • friend of Robbie

    I’ve known Robbie since his first days on campus, and although I didn’t go to Gaieties this year I’m confident that if he was offended, it is justified. He should be Tree, not this stupid emaciated tree trunk we have instead. That’s not the kind of person who doesn’t take Gaieties for what it is, which yes, is kind of a mashup of every Stanford jab the writers can come up with.

  • Two edged sword

    From an objective persepctive, Gaieties made fun of Christianity, the fraternity SAE, and ASSU president Angelina Cardona, in much more derogatory ways than the African American community. I think most non-black people who went to see the show are surprised that of all the groups to be offended, it was Ujaama.

    By making a big deal, the African American community is raising awareness as to how they feel, and I get it, the humor was offensive. But at the same time, it appears to be asking for a special privilege that no one else has requested.

    I recently saw a flier titled “white privilege: I got into Stanford without having my peers suspect that I only got in because of my race.” The point was to demonstrate an underlying insecurity in the non-white community about being treated better for being a minority. If that is a real insecurity, then minorities asking for special treatment from Gaieties may only serve to reinforce that insecurity.

  • A different perspective

    “The fact of the matter is that disturbing and divisive stereotypes do exist on campus,” she said. “The way Gaieties deals with them is by portraying these stereotypes in an outlandishly over-the-top manner, not only to generate discussion, but also to combat them by unifying the entire student body through laughter.”

    Dave Chappelle (like countless comedians who belong to marginalized groups) used outlandish stereotypes in his show in order to subvert the oppressive forces that promote them and point out just how silly they are. In laughing at absurdly inaccurate stereotypes, we exercise power over them and prove that they do not deserve to be taken seriously. I believe that Rachel’s comment above expresses her belief that Gaieties strives to do something similar.

    The real problem arises when audience members laugh because they believe the stereotypes to be legitimate portrayals of the groups they target. It is likely that some people fall into that category. But that’s the risk you take with any kind of comedy that plays on stereotypes. I’m going to try to have faith in the majority of the Stanford community and say that most audience members were able to laugh at the stereotypes presented in Gaieties because they know they are absurd, not because they found enjoyment in what they perceived to be a realistic portrayal of Stanford student groups and communities.

  • Nick deWilde (head writer)

    The real irony of all this is- we initially chose to gear this year’s show towards racial humor in order to force gaieties to get more minority performers involved (i.e. writing an african-american/black jesus as the show’s lead). And guess what? We did.

    Our thinking was: “instead of just making jokes about what it’s like being a white person at stanford, why not try our best to identify with other groups at the school?” (and in case you’re wondering we did have one half-black writer on staff who helped us understand the finer points of the diaspora).

    Look, if you were someone who really did feel marginalized by the show, I’m sorry it made you feel that way, however it’s my personal opinion that if you’re group- whether ethnic or acappella- isn’t being made fun of, then you’re not really being included at the table. Next time, instead of getting offended and retreating off to start yet another “dialogue,” you might try firing back a few jokes of your own. Who know, instead of yelling back and fourth we might actually start listening to each other.

  • Michael Tubbs

    With all due respect Nick…offending people to coerce them to join is a dumb tactic.
    There are countless other common sense approaches ( talking with leaders of groups in the communities, approaching people directly) that could’ve lead to the end you sought in a way less bigoted and offensive matter. When I get back to the campus, I’d love to help you.

    Honestly, my dude, reread your post again and see if it makes sense. For example, ” instead of just making jokes about what it’s like being a white person at Stanford, why not try our best to identify with other groups at the school?” is a farce rationale for 2 reasons:
    1. Gaities always has insensitive, offensive, racist jokes (at least in my 3 years here)
    2. You don’t identify by resorting to stereotypes

    Finally, the point about having “one half-black writer on staff” was better left unstated. That’s akin to the whole, “I have one black friend” reasoning. We’re beyond tokenism in 2010. The fact that you felt that one-half black writer could represent the whole diaspora and black experience at Stanford is laughable and problematic.

    I’d be more than happy to chat/skype/email offline about these issues.
    My email is mrtubbz@stanford.edu

  • To A Different Perspective

    If it is the case that the humor at Gaieties was meant as a Dave Chappelle-esqe jab at social inequity, I don’t particularly see that point has ever been stated in any way. Your comments are strident apologetics, creating meaning and excuse where none exist. Nick deWilde attempts to support this claim stating that “we did have one half-black writer on staff who helped us understand the finer points of the diaspora.” Nothing against this individual, but if you believe that any one individual can depict the entire Diaspora, please tell me who this person is. I want to know so that I can tell the entire Black House Staff, BSU Core, the wonderful staff of the VPSA and all of the wonderful staff and student leaders at Stanford that they can stop trying; apparently there’s already somebody who can do their jobs for them. kthxbai.

  • @Two Edged Sword

    I think it’s interesting that you made the comment about how more than just Black people were offended, based solely on the fact that Ujamaa left. Having once lived in Ujamaa, I KNOW that its a community that does not make its core issue that of Black people. Ujamaa has Christians, ISC/IFC Greeks and are friends of Angelina Cardona, so don’t try to pigeon hole Uj into being just the bastion of Blackness, bit instead see that it represents so much more

  • To “To A Different Perspective”

    Did you even read the article? Did you entirely miss Rachel Lindee’s explanation at the end?

    And way to take out your frustrations on that one anonymous writer…real constructive.

  • CB

    The queer community was also offended by this production. There were many negative gay stereotypes presented, such as one of the reasons Cal is presented as hell is because of lesbianism as well as making fun of Sigma Nu because it’s labeled as the “gay frat” and is thus assumed that Sigma Nu isn’t as manly as the other frats because they’re having gay sex with each other all the time. I might have been okay with the negative portrayals if there were some positive portrayals to balance everything out. Unfortunately, there weren’t any. Whether or not this was intentional, the production seemed to state that being queer was somehow a negative thing. I was on the verge of storming out myself. I wish I did.

    This year’s Gaieties spent less time making fun of Cal and more time making fun of the minorities at Stanford. The production had a very narrow view — mainly, white, male, and heterosexist. And worse, we’re teaching the frosh that it’s okay to make fun of people who don’t fit into this window. Next year, Gaieties staff, be sure to run the show by the community centers so this doesn’t happen again.

  • Justification because of 1 person, really??

    Hey “friend of Robbie,”
    I’m a “friend of Lindee,” who also ran for tree last year, and I’d have to say I’d be way quicker to trust the judgment of someone who didn’t have to sleep in a covered wagon to prove they were the right choice for tree. But oh wait, he wasn’t. Even further reason as to why his personal opinion regarding Gaieties shouldn’t be the basis of an irrational tirade against a classic Stanford tradition. You’re not the mascot of our school, and I’m also pretty sure you’re not black. kthxbai.

    (this is by no means an attack towards Robbie, but rather disbelief and fury in the fact that people think one group’s protests “justify” the validity of a claim that seems to be deepening stereotypes rather than working towards an “equal” campus community where EVERYONE can be made fun of without worrying about issues of select discrimination.)

  • Clarification for “To A Different Perspective”

    “I believe that Rachel’s comment above expresses her belief that Gaieties strives to do something similar.” – This does not mean that I think Gaieties SUCCEEDED in doing something similar. But according to Lindee, that’s its intention.

    I am also not apologizing for Gaieties, nor do I care to. My focus is more on audience reactions and a sincere hope that the Stanford community is informed enough to not find accuracy or validity in the stereotypes – especially those regarding race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion – presented in the show. But if that’s not the case, then we do have a major problem on our hands, and it ought to be addressed. For now, I will continue to be thankful that I go to a university that has, Gaieties or no Gaieties, done an outstanding job of promoting diversity — efforts from which I and hundreds of other students have directly benefited.

  • Whoooosh

    @Michael Tubbs… whoooooosh….

    That was the point of Gaieties going over your head. This is the problem with Ujamaa’s RAs not appropriately preparing/forewarning their residents about the show (and presumably still selling tickets). Now people who have really nothing to do with Stanford come in and develop false assumptions about the University.

    Tubbs, Gaieties does the opposite of what you imply. The heart of Gaieties is love. It brings us together to laugh at Cal, ourselves and each other, at a crazy time of our lives where we often get so caught up in problem sets, midterms, or trying to get together with that cute person in class that we forget to not take ourselves too seriously.

  • @CB

    @CB, understanding irony is a prerequisite for attending the show. Just don’t go if you can’t laugh at the stereotypes. THAT’S THE POINT. It proves that these things are wrong.

    Where did all the funny Stanford people go? Did they all graduate or something?

  • It simply wasn’t ironic

    All of this supposed comparisons to great comedians and appeals to irony are nonsense. None of it was funny. If it had been done in a comedic manner and not just comedy defined at the most offensive thing we can think of, fewer people would be offended. The writing for Gaieties is just terrible is doesn’t seem to get any better. Beating a dead horse, which is what these stale, vapid, stereotypes were doing is not comedy.

  • Junior

    Can we talk about what specifically was so offensive that it caused people to walk out?
    The article cites two examples:
    ‘…Native Americans as visibly intoxicated and an ad-libbed line about dressing up for a party as “Rosa-Parks black” as a few examples…’
    I would rather have a discussion about the actual negativity and why it was so offensive to people.

    The other thing we need to remember is that Gaieties is a show written entirely by students who volunteer who also have a lot of other stuff on their plates. Writing comedy is incredibly difficult and writing comedy without being offensive is impossible. Maybe we can all try to be empathetic and look at the intention of these writers.

  • re It simply wasn’t ironic

    it simply wasn’t ironic, if you do not think this type of humor is funny, simply don’t go to the show… it’s really easy. RAs are supposed to be a part of telling freshman what this Stanford tradition was about. I saw the show twice, and I thought it was hilarious. But if you don’t find humor like the aristocrats funny, as an example, you probably won’t find this kind of humor funny.

    Additionally, people who are sensitive to strong language, sexuality, and over the top stereotypes should steer clear of the show. Lastly, people who take themselves too seriously would be best served if they never heard of the show.

  • Nick deWilde (head writer)

    Look at this great dialogue! I’d say the show was a huge success.

    Please forward all congratulatory emails to: jesslam@stanford.edu

  • re re It Simply wasn’t ironic

    No, I meant that for that style of comedy it wasn’t funny. I love that kind of comedy when it is done well, but my point is that Gaieties isn’t done well.

  • A Solution

    Gaieties is a tradition that has been around for 100 years. The idea behind the show is and always has been to gather our community and get everyone laughing with each other and at ourselves. This show is part of what makes Stanford such a special place. We do not take ourselves too seriously, and we are not afraid of being politically incorrect or pushing boundaries. It is not a secret that this show is not the most professional production out there. But it is the energy and enthusiasm of the actors and the school spirit it is meant to inspire that makes it such a fun experience.

    The future of this show is on the line right now. There is talk of changing the entire nature of Gaieties and even mumblings of canceling the show all together. If this occurs, I think we are making a statement that this campus is not as liberal, diverse or accepting as we claim to be. If we can’t talk about hot issues, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, we have a much bigger problem on our hands than an offensive musical production.

    Going forward, I believe that the nature and the spirit behind Gaieties should be allowed to stay the same. The majority of this campus comes and enjoys the show. It is not fair to take that enjoyment away from those students. And if there are student groups and communities that do not want to be included in our script, they could be given the chance to say so and the writers will respect that request. However to me, NOT including jokes about certain communities is a far more discriminating and isolating statement. But that should be their choice.

    And as for the rest of you who are criticizing the acting, the style of comedy or the show all together. Or for those of you who take themselves too seriously to take a night off from studying and laugh a little.
    DON’T COME!

  • Wow.

    Dear Gaieties,
    If your best defense to your portrayals of minorities is that you had to write in racial stereotypes to cast them, or that you had one half-black student on the writing team…. then we have a serious problem.

    If you don’t know why it was offensive to portray native americans as having alcohol issues on this campus then you are right, we do NEED to have a serious discussion about why that is offensive. In fact, you’ve opened my eyes to how serious the discussion is going to have to be.

    This isn’t about “pushing boundaries” or being “politically incorrect” because there are plenty of comedians who do this everyday. This is about the Gaieties writing staff writing intelligent, funny, new critiques of the Stanford community and Cal. They failed to do this, what they wrote was offensive, poorly written and embarrassing for the university. I have NO PROBLEM with the “spirit” of Gaieties, but that “spirit” does not excuse them from writing pieces that are intelligent. If the “spirit” of Gaieties is defined by portraying the native community as alcoholics, or bragging about its one half-black member, or the fact that they had to write in racial stereotypes in order to have a diverse cast, then that is not funny, or envelope pushing, its just racist and sad.

  • Re: The Issue of Intent

    ““It was important for us that while our show crosses boundaries, as is tradition of Gaieties, it did not overstep them in a hurtful or mean-spirited manner,” Lindee wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.””

    Google “Intent! It’s —-ing magic.” (I don’t entirely agree with this post, but it gets across the major points.)

    If TLDR, thank you for your intent not to “overstep them in a hurtful or mean-spirited manner.” To me, that shows that there is genuine interest in a dialog and that this action can be a learning experience for Stanford. However, it is important to note that intent is not enough. To do true good, one must have more than the good intention to do good.

    And if that good is to make fun of Cal and ourselves for a bit, than by all means, let’s do good. But, let’s make sure that through our humor, we are not dividing our campus, when we should be unifying our campus against the Weenies. Go Card.

  • Anonymous Person

    Dear Gaieties,
    Thank you for allowing me to laugh at myself. You managed to make me laugh at my own race, my fraternity, and the general Stanford world that I live in. I’m sorry that others could not enjoy this comedy like I, and many others, did.
    I find it hard to believe that you would intend, or by accident, put something that would offend a group of people into your play. It seems like if this happened, one of the many people involved with the play would have said something.
    Thanks, and I hope that Gaieties is able to continue strong in the future as has done for the past century.

  • If a tree falls in a forest…

    The repeated notion that those offended should simply not attend or shut up and receive what they should expect at gaieties is utterly beside the point and reflects the greater problem at hand. The problem with the show is not solely that someone was offended, but that the message put forth is detrimental to all of those watching. By perpetuating negative stereotypes and presenting implicitly or explicitly racist, sexist or homophobic views as a norm or stanford tradition is what is truly troubling. Simply because those offended are not there to be offended does not change the nature of the show or the inherent problems that it possessed. It is as if you ask those who don’t like to hear racial epithets to cover their ears, or put on headphones and the problem is solved. Many of the comments I read above have attempted to attribute the issues with the show to anything but racism or ignorance, testament to this ignorances’ existence. The idea that it is just too hard to write good comedy, or that intentions were not malicious does not provide adequate explanation for the shows message. And the notion that to prove a state of equality at stanford we must stoop to mock groups with historic disadvantages, institutional barriers both at this university and nationally is absurd. I am proud of those who had the courage to speak up for what they believed was an injustice to them, their community and the greater stanford community.

  • This is healthy

    Stereotypes exist on this campus.
    Rumors circulate on this campus.
    Self-segregation happens on this campus.
    Misunderstanding occurs on this campus.

    In my opinion, Gaieties takes these things, extremely exaggerates them, and portrays them on stage to address their ridiculousness. It is a healthy way of acknowledging these things and presenting them to thousands of people — so that we all are startled by outrageous (but common) culturally insensitive stereotypes and rumors that all of us may have heard at some time. Stereotypes about certain frats and sororities were exaggerated on stage, so we can see how inaccurate and stupid they really are. The same was done with A cappella groups, groups of people (SLEople, Diaspora, Callies, etc.) and roles on campus (RAs, freshmen, etc.). Each and every one of these identities has an, or multiple, inaccurate stereotypes or rumors known throughout the Stanford campus. It is HEALTHY to highlight these and to have the entire school to face these inaccuracies. And I think a very appropriate medium to do so is through theater. Therefore Gaieties, its producer, staff, or cast members should not feel guilty for “reinforcing stereotypes” or anything of the such. Because Gaieties does not REINFORCE, it PURPOSELY EXAGGERATES stereotypes to acknowledge how incorrect and irrational they are.

    Another note worth mentioning is that no one person can represent the opinion of an entire group. So keep in mind that if one homosexual or Black or Gaieties member posts here, that may or may not reflect the common opinion of the group they are part of. We are all individuals and should think as individuals (cough – Ujamaa RAs – cough) and should acknowledge that this is a very controversial issue that has infinite arguments. So don’t lump people together. Just as you wouldn’t want the writers of Gaieties to do to you.

  • Really?!

    Really, Ujamaa? You choose to focus on the smallest of offenses and the fact that all students won’t be represented in a positive manner?

    I notice that you’ve completely ignore that perhaps the most offensive part of this show was its treatment of the Christian religion, but are the Christians on campus up in arms? NO. We understand this is parody, and, guess what? We KNEW what we were getting when we attended Gaieties.

    Gaieties has done a remarkable job of making fun of most every single sub-group of Stanford culture. Is your request really that they only make fun of groups who aren’t underrepresented? I think that would strike a blow at the very heart of Gaieties – by making fun of everything, they really aren’t making fun of anything.

    Seriously, get over yourselves.

  • Raymond

    It’s like when Cedric the Entertainer made the comment in The Barbershop about Rosa Parks being too lazy to walk to the back of the bus. The joke is on the character who is persistently portrayed as unwitting and foolish. There is a risk some people may watch the scene and think “yeah, he was right, she was just being lazy.” Some people would say this is grounds for getting rid of the movie or having it rewritten. I am just going to put it out there that anything you write on race, gender, etc. can be/will be linked to something in a negative way. The author has little power over how an audience will twist/contort his/her work.

    This seems like yet again another case of a small contingent of Stanford students who are crying because they didn’t get enough attention as a little kid. I am actually certain that there are some people who were at gaities and legitimately offended or made to feel uncomfortable. I am one of them. I am not a fan of that type of humor. But I took it for what it was when I was a freshman and decided I’d skip out on the event for the next 3 years.

    The truth is that people who actually felt uncomfortable about it are reasonable people who expressed their opinion amongst friends and neighbors but didn’t decry the apocalypse of stanford political correctness. The people who have launched the tsunami of B-itch-ing are the sorts that look for things to b-itch about everywhere. They could be in an isolated world and be the one sole person in that world and still be b-itch-ing about being “judged,” “negative stereotypes,” “solipsism privilege,” etc. etc.

    It’s sad because there are legitimate cases of heinous discrimination or distasteful stereotyping that is actually quite damaging, but most of them won’t be taken seriously because of these b-itch-es who cry wolf whenever race or gender get mentioned.

  • Publius

    I have been offended by humor & have offended others with my humor.

    I have defended Stanford traditions & have questioned them because of their potential impact.

    I only hope that in the midst of this conversation, we not close our minds to the values & beliefs of our fellow Cardinal. Truly, this closed-mindedness would be the opposite of both what Gaieties & Ujamaa intend.

    Yes, there is a tension between pluralism & unity, between freedom of speech & protection from harm, but there is much for us to learn from one another & it is clear we share a deep concern for this place we call home.

    Let’s not forget that Stanford is our “nourishing mother” & in this way, we are all brothers & sisters.

  • Nadine

    Freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to make derogatory and abusive comments about one’s race or ethnicity. Just because it is shrugged off as a joke, doesn’t mean it is funny nor is it excusable. It ceases to be a joke when the other party doesn’t laugh. The issue at hand is cultural insensitivity to the point where people make excuses for unacceptable behavior instead of taking ownership of the impact of their poor decision-making has on others. The writing team of the Gaieties was selfish, inconsiderate, and downright callous with their disregard of others feelings. It is such lack of compassion for human dignity which breeds intolerance and perpetuates callous behavior.

    The offended students and members of Ujamaa had every right to assert themselves and walk away from this garbage which passes itself off as “entertainment” because they called out disrespectful behavior when they saw it. Unfortunately, those who accuse the offended students of crying wolf, obviously lack compassion and respect for themselves and therefore have no respect for others. We are 100 per cent responsible for every thought, deed, and action we generate; and when we deliberately hurt others by those actions we generate hostility and ill-will. It’s time for members of the Gaieties to grow up and accept responsibility for their actions and accept the consequences of their behavior which hurt people.

  • Donald

    Nadine, it is clear from what you say that you do not understand what Gaieties is doing, and you should not attend the show in the future. Gaieties does not make derogatory and abusive comments about race/ethnicity, it has actors who play parts that make fun of those who are derogatory/abusive of race and ethnicity. There is a definite, yet subtle distinction there, which is why the show is for adult audiences (who have a strong stomach) only.

  • David Lombardi

    This fits the definition of a non-issue. Get over yourselves, develop a sense of humor, and devote your time to something productive, like helping others.