A recent decision by Mansfield Entz to host a 4/20 bop seems in best case misguided and in the worst exclusive, and the decision of the Entz reps to rethink the bop is a welcome one.
A 4/20 bop sounds, to many, great fun, and this article is not an endorsement of some prohibitive stance against drug culture, nor an endorsement of any sort of drug culture – what adults choose to do in their spare time is completely up to them. However, a bop is an event in which the whole college community comes together, and in which every member of the college should be made to feel not only welcome, but accepted. College is a student’s home. As a proud member of `the friendliest college in Oxford`, I do not think that a 4/20 bop is inclusive and welcoming, as every bop should be. Bops are an event that should involve all members of the college, from students who seldom go out to the Cellar regulars.
However, by proposing an event which seems somewhat exclusory, essentially available only to those who feel comfortable in an event based on this culture, the Entz reps who chose this theme have ignored the inclusivity that makes bops such great college events.
Firstly, those who disagree with drug culture are likely to avoid the bop on principle, rightly or wrongly, as a glorification of a culture that they disagree with. But even if the bop is not avoided on the basis of some strong principle, many students, I am sure, will feel uncomfortable in an environment which encourages and seemingly endorses a pro-drugs culture. The response of some Mansfield students shows that the bop was met with a negative reaction from at least some quarters, and this is clearly not in keeping with the inclusivity that a bop should be built upon. An addendum to the original email states that the bop was intended to celebrate 4/20, in part, as a recognised day of protest for legalisation. Yet, it seems clear to me that bops should be entirely apolitical, in order to allow the whole college community to be involved. Those who don’t want to celebrate the protest for legalisation, or feel that it is misguided to describe 4/20 as `an iconic aspect of pop culture for our generation`, are left being excluded.
Of course, as with every bop, those who came up with the theme thought it would be light-hearted fun, I am sure, and let’s not blow this out of proportion – it is not a particularly offensive theme. Those who criticise the theme on the grounds that it may lead to some sort of cultural appropriation are being somewhat hasty. If we start banning events because of pre-emptive concerns that someone might dress inappropriately, we wouldn’t have any bops left. The Entz reps haven’t really done anything seriously wrong, and although an apology is the right action to take, I am sure they didn’t cause too much offense or distress. What they did do was fail to understand the needs of the college community as a whole, and this is a mistake which they correctly rectified.