MARSHALL (KMHL) – Southwest Minnesota State University has changed the name of its major winter celebration, which has become known as “Hawaiian Night.”
In a message to students and staff, SMSU President Dr. Kumara (Koo-mar-ah) Jayasuriya (JYE-AH-sur-EE-ah) announced the university is changing the name from Hawaiian Night to Tropical Night.
“This past year SMSU faculty members and the SMSU Student Association raised the issue of the term ‘Hawaiian Night’ and the revelry associated with the evening as being a form of cultural appropriation,” said Jayasuriya in a message to students and staff. “Cultural appropriation can be best described as the inappropriate adoption of customs or practices of one people by members of another, more dominant people that is used for their own personal interest.”
Jayasuriya said the SMSU Student Association asked to change the name of the event in order to remove any reference to one culture or group.
He notes that after presenting a list of replacement names for the celebration to the President’s Cabinet for approval the name was put to the entire student body for a vote and “Tropical Night” was overwhelmingly chosen as a more appropriate title for the celebration.
“Southwest prides itself in being an inclusive and student-centered institution. I am very proud of our students for raising awareness and taking the initiative to encourage change for the better,” he added.
Tropical Night was chosen from a list of four finalist names for the celebration which included Western Night Swinter (Summer-Winter) and Mustang Night.
The name change has not been popular with everyone, a list of more than 700 people have started a petition on Change.org to “Save Hawaiian Night.”