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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tortilla toss a Tucson tradition

    UA mascot Wilbur T. Wildcat, right, rears back to throw a tortilla at the spring 2005 afternoon graduation ceremony. Campus administrators are still worried that tortillas could injure or offend students and their families at next weeks commencement ceremony.
    UA mascot Wilbur T. Wildcat, right, rears back to throw a tortilla at the spring 2005 afternoon graduation ceremony. Campus administrators are still worried that tortillas could injure or offend students and their families at next week’s commencement ceremony.

    As graduates in other parts of the country receive their diplomas and toss their hats in the air for their accomplishments, UA graduates toss something a little different and a little tastier – tortillas.

    The tradition has been a part of UA graduations for about 10 years, said Jim Drnek, associate dean of students. The UA’s unique graduation tradition is not without controversy, however.

    In December 2005, the commencement ceremony was canceled for undergraduate students following a number of complaints about the tradition. Some complaints were made that the tradition is culturally insensitive against Mexican-American and American Indian culture.

    The December 2005 event was reinstated following a student-sponsored forum discussion, but with a message from then-President Peter Likins stating that some groups frown upon the tradition.

    At this year’s graduation, both graduates and their guests will be searched for tortillas upon entering McKale Center, just like at sporting events, Drnek said.

    Policies concerning outside food at sporting events also govern graduation.

    “”You’re not supposed to throw food in McKale Center,”” Drnek said. “”You’re not supposed to bring in outside food or beverages.””

    The UA community is divided about whether throwing tortillas could be seen as racist or discriminatory.

    “”I think there were other individuals in town who felt that it was culturally insensitive,”” Drnek said.

    Others think that tortilla throwing is not meant to be racist.

    “”I don’t think that that’s the intention, and if people are thinking about it that way, then they might be looking too much into it,”” said Jessica Leftault, a visual communications sophomore. “”I just don’t think that was the intention that they had.””

    Some question whether the tortilla could be used as a symbol for Mexican-American or American Indian culture.

    “”As far as racist? I’m not Mexican-American, but I don’t think that they really represent the Hispanic culture, anyway,”” said Mabel Gutierrez, a sociology senior.

    Tortilla tossing and hat tossing can also be safety issues. If tortillas dry out, they can harden and become dangerous, Drnek said.

    Others think safety is not much of an issue concerning tortillas.

    “”Actually, it would be less dangerous than hats, because (a tortilla) weighs less,”” Gutierrez said.

    While Drnek expects that there will be students who will throw tortillas at the ceremony, he said he hopes participants in the ceremony act

    appropriately.

    “”I hope that they behave in a way that preserves the ceremony for future students,”” he said.

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