There’s a controversy brewing at Virginia Commonwealth University over Students Today Alumni Tomorrow’s (STAT) T-shirts which read “We Built This City.”
STAT president Brendan Hood refused to apologize for the shirts, noting that they’re merely “a play off the 1980s pop song ‘We Built This City’ by Jefferson Starship” (I believe the band was just called Starship by that point), along with a “recognition of VCU and its large network of affiliates for revitalizing and developing Richmond.”
Critics, however, brought up the city’s “bleak history” — “its slave-holding, slave-trading and separatist heritage,” and noted Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy.
“This hurts VCU’s image and hurts the already fragile relationship with Richmond and its residents,” [SGA delegate William] Carino told the delegation, asking them to take the request seriously and to consider taking action if Hood and STAT would not.
Carino, a Richmond resident of eight years, said he was personally upset with the shirt. Carino said the shirt’s message portrays VCU students in a negative light and perpetuates “a stereotype” of students who feel entitled and are ignorant of Richmond’s local history and full-time, year-round residents.
Hood said he and STAT would not apologize for the T-shirts, which he said were “made with no malicious intent,” and refused to issue a recall of them.
“We cannot apologize for something that was not meant or intended to offend anyone,” Hood said in committee. “Last year, we were in a time at STAT where we were working with many local businesses. We realized that many of them were helping the community and we were proud of the fact that we could help them grow. That’s where the idea came from.”
Carino said that “even taken figuratively, the message at best is naive, insensitive, misleading, and at its worst, elitist and offensive.”
He added that many are “looking for some form of an apology,” and if they don’t get it the VCU-Richmond relationship would suffer.
IMAGE: Eli Christman/Flickr