Oxford college cancels 'cannabis themed' party amid accusations of cultural appropriation

Camilla Turner
Students were told not to dress as Bob Marley if they are white - HULTON ARCHIVE

An Oxford college was forced to cancel its “cannabis themed” party amid accusations of "cultural appropriation".

The entertainment team at Mansfield College planned to host a bop on Friday night where students were encouraged to dress up as their favourite “stoner icon”.

In an email to undergraduates, they explained that the party would be “420” themed to commemorate the “internationally recognised day of protest for the legalisation of Marijuana” on April 20th. 

Students were told: “420 is not about the consumption of da herb itself, and more about the arts, music, and literature surrounding it; it’s a celebration of a rich culture including everything from hippies to Hip-Hop, from Seth Rogan to the Dude.”

The email encouraged “all you (plant) pot-heads out there” to “dress as stoner icons like Snoop Dogg, Todd from BoJack, Shaggy from Scooby Doo, Harold and Kumar – or even the Super Troopers.”

Students were told they could dress up as Snoop Dogg for the bop Credit:  Rex features

The entertainment team advised: “If you’re white, don’t try to go as Snoop Dogg or Bob Marley. Blackface isn’t cool”.

An addendum at the bottom of the email noted that “the possession and consumption of marijuana is illegal in the UK and against University regulations.

The JCR Entz do not condone its usage in any way, both in this event or otherwise. 4/20 is an internationally recognised day of protest for legalisation as well as an iconic aspect of pop culture for our generation, and this is what we intend to celebrate.”

The bop theme provoked a backlash among students who felt that it could lead to “cultural appropriation”.

An undergraduate at Mansfield said that the college’s elected welfare representatives were also concerned that the event would be “exclusionary”.

“Anyone who might have negative experiences of drugs or addiction might be affected by it,” the student told The Daily Telegraph.

“There are of course risks related to the theme that people might have come in costumes which might have perceived as offensive.

“Fundamentally people were concerned about the inappropriate nature of a drug themed bop in a college both from a welfare perspective.”

Magdalen College was criticised by students over its 1920s-themed ball 

The entertainment team later apologised for their “significant mistake”, as they told students that the cannabis theme has been axed.

“We understand that this was met with offence and we want to apologise dearly to those who were offended,” they said.

“We overlooked the clear issues with this theme and now realise our very significant mistake in the matter. We can’t apologise enough.”

They added: “And clearly nor did we expect any members of the College to be dressing in a manner so as to be culturally appropriating any culture.”

 Oxford University declined to comment on the row, which is the latest in a series of controversies about racism and cultural appropriation. 

Magdalen College was criticised by students over its 1920s-themed ball. It was claimed that the ball may cause offence to female and ethnic minority students on the basis that "people of colour and women were entirely absent from college spaces" during the time period.

Lincoln College was also accused of "cultural appropriation" over its New Orleans-themed ball, with students claiming it promotes "nostalgia for an era steeped in racism."  

The Oxford Union’s governing body passed a unanimous motion in 2015 recognising that it is “institutionally racist” following an outcry over a “highly offensive” cocktail named “The Colonial Comeback”.