Appropriation or Appreciation? Social Justice Advocates Host ‘Utah Fan Am I’


Adam Fondren

The Block U, an alternative to the drum and feather logo at the U. | Chronicle archive.

By Natalie Colby, Editor-in-Chief

The sixth annual “Utah Fan Am I” event was hosted by the Housing and Residential Office and Social Justice Advocates on Sept. 24 in the Peterson Heritage Center. It kicked off the six-part series put on by the SJAs throughout the school year. 

The event focused on educating residents and RAs about the difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation. All of the speakers and activities placed an emphasis on moving away from using “Go Utes” and classic symbols such as the drum and feather, replacing such hallmarks with “Go Utah.” The group’s goals were to educate attendees about marginalized groups that they might not have had the opportunity to meet and interact with. 

“We want to teach inclusiveness as a whole, using Ute culture as a vehicle,” said Cha McNeil, resident director of the SJAs.

Curtis Lin
Swoop, the current mascot of the University of Utah. | Chronicle archives.

Through six different stations, the SJAs taught residents about harmful and offensive past practices of the U, such as wearing headdresses to sporting events and the original mascot of the U, a caricature of an American Indian boy, Hoyo. The event also unpacked the history of the Ute tribe, and the difference between appropriation and appreciation. After visiting all six stations, those in attendance received a “Go Utah” shirt as an alternative piece of school spirit. 

Gabriela Villalobos, an SJA who helped prepare and run the event, said, “It’s about cultural awareness through dialogue and education, and [we] tried to take a more informative approach.”

McNeil and the SJAs have found that throughout the years, people are receptive to these new ideas and even supportive of them. 

Olivia Mauchley, another SJA, said, “[The residents in attendance] are normally very susceptible because they are learning new things every day.”  

Residents were also able to connect ideas back to their own academic classes, and found that the topic was more applicable than they thought. Marina Allen, a freshman living in Chapel Glen, said the event offered an interesting point of view, as she was studying indigenous people and their representation through the fiction genre. 

The “Go Utah” shirt that students received at the event. (Photo by Natalie Colby | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

“It made me want to get more involved in social justice institutes and broaden my horizons,” Allen said.

Sage Point RA Asante Creek said she thinks that there was an important message taught that night.

“I think as a whole it gives an introduction to the history behind Utah, and how we want to become a more inclusive space,” Creek said.

The response was relatively positive, but resident Colt Robbins said some people were insensitive to the topic. 

“It felt like a lot of people didn’t care about the issues,” Robbins said, “but at least it’s putting something in their minds.”

Another resident, Olivia Kavapalu, said she felt that it was important to recognize how the university has profited off stolen land and culture. She also offered some constructive criticism. 

“I wish there was an authentic indigenous person or a Ute at the event to add another level of seriousness,” Kavapalu said.

The next Social Justice Advocates sponsored event will be held in Lassonde Studios on Oct. 29 from 7-9 p.m., and will focus on financial literacy. 


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