BC’s Got Talent controversy correspondence

The following is a series of e-mails sent between Beatrice Bongiorno, an Italian and Spanish language instructor, and Nora Lance, the Associate Director of Student Programs.

 


Dear Nora,

 I stopped by the cafeteria earlier this afternoon and there was on stage a “rap group”.  As a woman, I object to the offensive language proudly shouted out with a microphone on stage.  I am not a prude, but I despise anything that may be insulting to my gender, more so in the place I work, and somehow, it was overlooked. Why?  I would hope, and I know I can’t speak for all women, that the verses would be found profoundly offensive by all women (and men of class), although a lady was on stage with the guys, I must add.  I also hope, we do not play the “freedom of speech” card because then we play it selectively, in which case, I honestly do not understand it, in a College where even its president is a woman.  In addition, we are undermining and disrespecting all those cultures more sensitive to the language and who surely would find the content objectionable for reasons perhaps different than mine.

I found appalling the vulgarity and obscenities the group was rapping about (some very graphic sexual content and a few words were indeed “disguised”), and I suppose it would have received more objections had more people heard it or even understood it (some of the students present were our foreign students, and, as anyone can imagine, rap or songs in general, are not the easiest thing to comprehend an decipher as one learns another language and this fact should not be exploited nor taken advantage of by their fellow classmates.  Are the standards lowered when it is a student-organized event?  I think a talent show is a great idea, but some performers’ material should have been screened to comply with the “Affirmation of Inclusion” posted everywhere. I do not find this kind of rap inclusive.  How can entertainment be at the expense of a huge group of the campus community?  I feel for the cashiers (all women), who patiently were enduring the vulgarity the rap members “rhymed” about.  It all spoke of sex and objectifying women.  I do not find it artistic and entertaining in the least.  It was evident to me that the ladies working in the cafeteria were not comfortable and no woman should endure listening to this crude language in the workplace.  Of course, there are always those who enjoy it.  I would not allow it in my classroom.  I know this was a just a poor example and not the real talent BC has among its students.  I do not see the “spirit” in those raps the way I intend it.

I have no intention to start a thread of e-mail; I just wanted to bring to the attention what I, accidentally, stumbled upon during a quick stop in the cafeteria.  Maybe…I just “don’t get it”.

Thank you for reading.

Beatrice L. Bongiorno

 


Dear Beatrice,

I am very sorry you were offended by one of the student rappers who performed earlier today.  After I received your email, the Student Programs staff met with students associated with the event.  We all agreed that an apology is necessary.

The group rappers were not part of the planned Talent Show.  At the end of the show, there was an invitation for students to come on stage and perform.  The four rappers who came on stage performed a free style rap battle. I want to emphasize that these rappers on stage were not part of a scheduled performance. Our intent in putting on the BC Spirit Talent Show is not to offend anyone.

We are a learning community and we took this opportunity to discuss with student event coordinators and student leaders our responsibilities as we put forth campus events in a public forum.

The students volunteered to meet with you and anyone else to discuss their views in a personal and collegial setting.  We can set up a meeting at your convenience if you’d like.

Once again, I apologize for the offensive language and connotation.  If you have any other concerns, please feel free to contact Faisal Jaswal or me.

Sincerely,

 Nora Lance

 


 Dear Nora,

 Thank you for responding on behalf of the students who organized the event. I appreciate your apology which goes to me but truly to all women and men of decency and class who truly love and respect women.

 Students Programs Staff took the right action by meeting and react to my e-mail. I wish had acted just as rapidly recognizing the vulgarity and literally pulling the plug and turning off the microphone. I would have approached the stage, but I am shy and preferred not to draw attention to myself and chose, instead, to follow my good intuition and inform the BC community of what had just taken place by e-mail as it reached everyone.

 Indeed, student events coordinators and student leaders have the responsibility to organize events that do not offend anyone and decency, décor, and respect should never be lost in the event.  The cafeteria is a public forum, oftentimes we have people from outside our BC community setting tables there, visiting, stopping by to just enjoy lunch, and many who work there as you know. The vulgarity displayed was shameful, embarrassing, and the low-end of American pop culture, way below BC standards. I do think it is already a great step that the students recognized – even if after the fact– that an apology is necessary.

 Calling people on a stage to showcase their talent is fine and so is a “free style rap battle”, but it should have never been translated into the showcasing on stage of the misogynistic views and feelings rapped about in their lyrics at the expense of all women, the ones present first and foremost.  I have no desire to be polemic here, but I find hard to believe there were no rules set or boundaries not to be crossed established ahead of time in view of this invitation on stage after the Talent Show. 

 I will accept the invitation of the students to meet me and whoever wants to join me and apologize in person if they so wish. Perhaps, it is time they learn something truly valuable and rap about it on International Women’s Day on March 8th for all to enjoy.

 Thank you for taking the time to respond.

Beatrice L. Bongiorno

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