USD: ‘Hawaiian Day’ party, lei determined inappropriate

VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) — A student organization at the University of South Dakota has been told that holding a “Hawaiian Day” party violates the school’s policy on inclusiveness.

So, the Student Bar Association has renamed its winter social event “Beach Day.” And even though the group is encouraging members to wear floral shirts, it won’t be distributing lei at the party.

Law school administrators advised the students not to distribute the traditional flower garlands often given to tourists in Hawaii because using items of cultural significance might be viewed as inappropriate, according to the Argus Leader.

The administration advised the association to change the Hawaiian theme of the event based on a complaint by a student who expressed concern about the use of indigenous cultural symbols, according to Michelle Cwach, the university’s director of marketing communications.

The decision to change the event Wednesday came on the same day that South Dakota lawmakers killed a bill that would have mandated free speech on the state’s college campuses and required the Board of Regents to promote intellectual diversity among college faculty and staffs. The board’s executive director, Paul Beran, urged lawmakers to kill the bill, which had already passed the House. A Senate committee voted it down.

Cwach said the board revised its policy on free speech last fall.

“USD has already addressed this issue with interim law school administration and the SBA to clarify its commitment to the First Amendment,” she said. “USD continues to seek new ways to educate its campus community and current and incoming leaders on its responsibility to the First Amendment.”

Regents spokeswoman Janelle Toman said the review of the Hawaiian Day party was an “isolated instance.”

“There is no systemwide review of university social events by the Board of Regents, and we have no such plans to do so going forward,” she said in an email.