binghamton university campus

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University officials say the program was not "anti-white"

The name riffs off a popular meme

CNN  — 

Binghamton University officials have come forward with an explanation after a student-led Resident Assistant program called #StopWhitePeople2K16 nearly cause the internet to explode with anger.

Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, said in a published statement that the one-time RA staff training program was named by students, and was intended to be a dialogue on racial diversity and inclusion.

“The program title ‘#StopWhitePeople2K16’ was drawn from a familiar hashtag in use on Twitter, and was not invented by the program facilitators,” Rose said. “It is my understanding that the hashtag is commonly used ironically.”

Ironic or not, you don’t have to be a sociologist to understand why the name garnered almost instant derision The Binghamton Review, the university’s conservative student paper, first brought attention to the title this week and published a photo of a pamphlet containing the course description.

The provocative name was catnip to social media critics, who flamed the title as racist, confusing or counterproductive.

This backlash did not go unnoticed by Binghamton University staff, and a Binghamton spokesman clarified the university had no hand in the naming or approval of the program.

“This week, the office of student affairs spoke with organizers and attendees of the session, where they voiced their disappointment with the name chosen for the session and made clear that future training program publications will be reviewed by administrative staff before printing,” BU spokesman Ryan Yarosh told CNN via email. “The student affairs office also verified that the actual program content represented a respectful dialogue among participants.”

What is #StopWhitePeople2K16?

“Stop White People” is one of those alarming phrases that carries a much different context for the internet savvy. In short, it is a meme and a popular hashtag used to either satirize, poke fun or criticize what internet denizens believe to be stereotypically “white” behavior.

What is typically “white” behavior, in this context? According to tweets and articles playing off the #StopWhitePeople trend, it can refer to humorous observations (i.e. stereotypes that white people can’t dance or properly flavor their food) or social justice topics (i.e. cultural appropriation or microaggressions).

The phrase is actually quite mainstream, for a meme. Buzzfeed has created humorous posts around the topic (albeit to healthy criticism in the comments). Huffington Post and other major media outlets have riffed on the topic with articles like “10 things white people need to quit saying.” The 2014 satirical film “Dear White People,” which explores white and black campus cultures, could even be said to inform the phrase.

#StopWhitePeople (plus 2k16 or 2k15 or whenever) also has a healthy presence on Twitter, where people use it to comment on everything from harmless shenanigans to serious topics like rape culture and racial insensitivity.

Whether or not the effect is “ironic” relies heavily on the intent of the user and the understanding that, in the world away from social media, a phrase that literally says “stop white people” can inspire very different interpretations.