Harvey Mudd goes 'Madd' with political correctness

  • The Associated Students of Pomona College refused funding for "Mudd Goes Madd," an event at Harvey Mudd College, because organizers did not ask students affected by mental illness & disabilities for their feedback on its name.
  • The party was supposed to be mad scientist themed.

Yesterday, the Pomona College community received a statement from the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) regarding its decision to revoke funding from Mudd Goes Madd, a mad scientist-themed party,in late September. The email states:

“Last year, students on Harvey Mudd’s campus started planning an event also titled ‘Mudd Goes Madd.’ A number of students from the mental health and disability communities protested the name and the framing of the party on the grounds that they trivialize mental health disabilities, and that the concept of ‘going mad’ has historically been used to discredit individuals with chronic or acute mental illness, especially those who are marginalized in other forms.”

"[W]e don’t believe that the party planners intended to be ableist. . . ["mad"] still carries a connotation of violence against disabled people."   

The email noted that the primary reason ASPC defunded the event was that Mudd Goes Madd’s organizers did not ask students affected by mental illness and disabilities for their feedback on the party’s name—a step ASPC felt was necessary in planning an event with such an ableist name. ASPC stated, “[t]o the students that made their voices heard last year and to all of those who belong to the mental health and disability communities: we hear you. You are important to us. We value you. Especially to those who have been traditionally left out of mental health and disability conversations: you matter to us. These issues are always on the forefronts of our minds and are a focus of actions we will take this year. We will work to represent and amplify your voices: we are here to support you.”

ASPC stated that it did not know Pomona students would be unable to attend the event after funding was removed. It is not stated whether knowledge of that information would have changed ASPC’s decision regarding funding.

The email closed with the statement, “[w]e will continue to strive for a more inclusive campus and keep inclusivity as a top priority when funding events and clubs.”

Also included in the email was a note from the Disability, Illness, and Difference Alliance (DIDA), the 5C Disability Mentor Network (5CDMN), and the 5C Mental Health Alliance (MHA), which listed these groups’ complaints pertaining to the party’s name.

“We are writing because we believe that the conversation around Mudd Goes Madd needs to center the violence [sic] of ableist language and not the technicalities of ASPC’s decision,” the note begins. “While we don’t believe that the party planners intended to be ableist by naming the party Mudd Goes Madd, the word still carries a connotation of violence against disabled people.”

“Language is only one piece of the complex system of institutional ableism that students encounter daily at Mudd and in the 5Cs at large, but it is one of the most basic ways that we can support our peers,” the letter goes on to state. “It is important for us to be critical of our language, because the impact of ableist phrases extends beyond someone being offended. Words are used to oppress people.”

The note states that the party’s name restigmatizes mental illness, and that “Mudd Goes Madd erases the history of violence and institutionalization of mentally ill people and constructs madness as being silly and drunk.”

The letter goes on to state that the name Mudd Goes Madd also stigmatizes alcoholics. “What does it mean for Mudd to go ‘madd’ at this party? Are people mentally ill at the party because they got drunk? Addiction is a mental illness where people’s lives are jeopardized because they have no support. Thinking about partying through a metaphor about alcoholism is unacceptable.”

The letter continues, “Our disappointment is not about political correctness. Mudd Goes Madd dismisses the needs and wellbeing of disabled students.”

The letter closes with a call for the permanent banning of the name Mudd Goes Madd. “We demand that Mudd Goes Madd is no longer used. No event should reference disability without engaging with it in meaningful and critical ways. Event planners must involve disabled students from their own community and DIDA when programming events.”

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The Claremont Independent is an independent journal of campus affairs and political thought serving the colleges of the Claremont Consortium. The magazine receives no funding from any of the colleges and is distributed free of charge on campus. All costs of production are covered by the generous support of private foundations and individuals. The Claremont Independent is dedicated to using journalism and reasoned discourse to advance its ongoing mission of Upholding Truth and Excellence at the Claremont Colleges. The Claremont Independent is affiliated with Campus Reform through the Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership Program. Its articles are republished on Campus Reform with permission from the paper. 

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