The 9 Most Controversial Student Groups

Welcome to college, where the classes are harder, the parties are crazy and the clubs are wild.  And we don’t mean the clubs that you dance at on a Saturday night with your best girlfriends (unless we’re talking swing dance club)—we mean student organizations.  We’ve compiled a list of the student groups who have stirred up the most controversy in the past few years and garnered national attention for their actions.  And you thought your high school prom committee had drama…


The Berkeley College Republicans (University of California, Berkeley—Berkeley, CA)

In September 2011, the Berkeley College Republicans held an “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” meant to satirize affirmative action, for which they charged people different amounts for the same baked goods based on their race and gender.  White customers were charged $2, Asian customers $1.50, Latino customers $1, black customers $0.75, and Native American customers $0.25.  All women received $0.25 off their race-based price.  But as much as we collegiettes love a discount, many Berkeley students were none too pleased by what they called the “racist bake sale.”  The event was both successful—they sold 300 cupcakes and almost 200 cookies—and controversial, sparking threats against the group and angry comments from other students. But the group stood by their bake sale; then-president of the group Shawn Lewis told CNN: “We agree that the event is inherently racist, but that is the point. It is no more racist than giving an individual an advantage in college admissions based solely on their race (or) gender.”

The White Student Union (Towson University—Towson, MD)

The White Student Union at Towson isn’t even a real club yet and it has already received backlash from people across the nation (that has to be some kind of record).  In September 2012, senior Matthew Heimbach proposed the group to the Towson Student Government Association, saying it would “provide a support network for whites on campus who feel they are discriminated against because of their race,” according to a Baltimore Sun article. “We essentially want to replicate what every student union does on campus,” he told Towson’s student newspaper, The Towerlight. “You have a Black Student Union who promotes black heroes, we want to do the same thing.”  Heimbach’s idea was met with a lot of opposition from students who called it racist, wondering why white students needed to form a union in the first place. Victor Collins, Towson’s assistant vice president of student affairs for diversity, told the Baltimore Sun that while he thinks the proposed group has a right to exist under the First Amendment, he didn’t understand the point of the group. “They think they are a parallel comparison to the Black Student Union… In my observation in American society and history, I don't know if white students have been discriminated against or denied access to institutions,” he told the Sun. “This is a predominantly white institution. I don't understand why they have to [form.]”

St Andrews Conservative Association (University of St Andrews—Fife, Scotland)

The St Andrews Conservative Association caused a (literally) heated controversy in November 2011 when they burned an effigy of Barack Obama. It wasn’t a new act by the association; they’d had a tradition of burning effigies, usually of socialist leaders, for 30 years.  “Each year the association votes for a candidate who has contributed the most to left-wing politics to burn at our annual heretic burning,” then-president of the group Matthew Marshall said in an online statement. “This is an annual tradition which dates back numerous years, with previous heretics including Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and Alex Salmond.” But maybe they should have thought twice before choosing an American leader for that year’s stunt (and our President at that)—about one third of the undergrads at St Andrews are from the United States (uh… oops?), and many were enraged, calling the act anti-American and racist.  The group immediately apologized to Obama and vowed to end the effigy tradition.  Looks like these students learned that if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned (sorry, we had to).

The Daily Free Press (Boston University—Boston, MA)

You’d think that in light of multiple rape allegations and Peeping Toms on their campus, the last thing Boston University students would want to do is make very public jokes about sexual assault.  That apparently wasn’t the case for students working at the BU newspaper, The Daily Free Press, when they created their annual April Fools’ issue in 2012.  The paper was transformed into the “Disney Free Press” and included a front-page article that was most certainly not family-friendly.  The article, titled “BROken egos: BU fraternity suspended for assaulting female student,” described how the seven frat dwarves drugged and raped Snow White.  Yeah, that’s one Disney story that never needed to be written.  Students were understandably upset by the article, and the paper’s editor-in-chief apologized the next day.

NYU College Republicans (New York University—New York, NY)

Bet you never thought a game of hide-and-seek would garner national attention.  Well, it would if you call it “Find the Illegal Immigrant.” In 2007, the NYU College Republicans organized a game in which one person with a name tag that read “Illegal Immigrant” walked around campus.  Whoever found the person first would win a gift certificate.  The event, which the College Republicans said was created to bring awareness and create “dialogue” about illegal immigration, caused a hundreds-strong protest by students who opposed it, shouting slogans like “racists out.”


The Appalachian (Appalachian State University—Boone, NC)

According to the Appalachian State University student newspaper, everyone needs to calm the eff down about burritos.  After the paper mistakenly reported on Facebook and Twitter that Los Arcoiris, a favorite Mexican restaurant near App, was closing (they issued a correction 20 minutes later), they received a massive response from students who were angry that the paper had misled them.  The Appalachian’s response?  A scathing editorial that shamed the students for caring so much about the restaurant.  “We're disappointed,” the editorial read. “Throughout the morning Wednesday, our Twitter timeline exploded with feedback. We even received a string of phone calls to our office. All of a sudden, people cared - and it was all about a Mexican restaurant. Sorry burrito lovers, in a list of the most important issues covered this year, the potential closing of Los wouldn't even make the top 10.”  Ouch.  The paper received even more angry feedback from readers, and then-editor-in-chief Meghan Frick apologized for the editorial’s condescending tone.

Psalm 100 (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—Chapel Hill, NC)

When Christian a cappella group Psalm 100 voted unanimously in August 2011 to remove Will Thomason from the group, many UNC students were outraged.  But it wasn’t because students liked his singing voice; it was because Thomason, who is gay, was kicked out because he believed that homosexuality doesn’t conflict with the Bible.  Blake Templeton, then-general director of Psalm 100, insisted that Thomason wasn’t removed because he was gay, but because of his beliefs about homosexuality.  “It’s really easy in this situation for the focus to be on this one thing — the homosexuality. It wasn’t about that,” Templeton told The Daily Tar Heel. “It was really about a disagreement with something that was clearly written in Scripture and in the Bible and we just have to base all of our decisions, constitutionally… on the Bible.”  Because the school’s non-discrimination policy allowed student groups to restrict members based on shared ideas as long as students aren’t excluded because of personal characteristics, Psalm 100 didn’t get in trouble with the administration, but they did receive a lot of criticism from UNC students.

The Daily O’Collegian (Oklahoma State University—Stillwater, OK)

Sure, puns are great, but haven’t students from the Oklahoma State newspaper ever heard of the old adage, “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”?  Students were outraged when the paper used the headline “Diamond in the Muff” for a front-page article about a new strip club called the Blue Diamond Cabaret opened up in January 2012.  Clever… but awkward.


The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (Stanford University—Stanford, CA)

When it comes to controversial student groups, the Stanford Band pretty much takes the cake.  According to its website, the student-run band “uses a combination of witty political, borderline potty and artful musical humor to entertain its pregame and halftime audiences.” The band takes delight in offending audiences; their antics include but are certainly not limited to a 2004 halftime performance in which the band conducted a mock polygamous marriage (Stanford was playing BYU), and a 1986 incident in which a band member was seen urinating on the field in the middle of a performance.  The band was banned from the University of Notre Dame’s campus for a show in which the drum major, dressed as a nun, conducted the band with a wooden cross.  The governor of Oregon attempted to ban the band from entering the state of Oregon after a 1990 show that implied that the state’s logging industry was destroying the habitat of the Spotted Owl, an endangered species native to Oregon (the band members made a large chainsaw on the field, then the word “OWL,” which changed to “AWOL”). But while the band has caused their own share of controversies, the controversial event that they are most known for was “The Play”—a legendary football moment in which they were the victims, not the instigators. In the last few seconds of the 1982 Big Game against UC Berkeley, band members thought the game was over and ran onto the field, but ended up being run over by Berkeley’s Kevin Moen as he scored the winning touchdown.

What do you think, collegiettes?  Were these groups pretty crazy, or would your school’s latest chess club scandal give them a run for their money?  Let us know in the comments below!

Photo Credits:
The Associated Press