Following vocal student outcry, the Yale College Council has decided to change the name of its Wednesday Toad’s dance party from “Fat Woads” to “NOLA Woads.”
The original name is a play on “Fat Tuesday,” the traditional name for Mardi Gras, which was on Feb. 9. Mardi Gras, despite widespread secularization and celebration outside its Catholic context, has a religious origin, and it is directly linked to the Catholic calendar. Fat Tuesday culminates the festivities of Carnival season and precedes Ash Wednesday, when those observing Lent cease merriment and begin reflection. When Fat Woads was first announced on Facebook, students from Yale’s Catholic community immediately responded, expressing disappointment in the YCC’s decision to host a Mardi Gras-themed party on the first day of the holy season. The Saint Thomas More Chaplain’s Office also asked the YCC to consider a name change in a statement to both the News and the YCC signed by Yale University Chaplain Sharon Kugler, among others. The new name honors New Orleans, a city famous for its Mardi Gras celebration.
YCC Events Director Amour Alexandre ’17 said YCC originally decided to host Fat Woads on Feb. 10 given the date’s proximity to the official day of celebration, but changed the name in response to student complaints. The Facebook event “Fat Woads” — which garnered criticism from students who called the name insensitive and even disrespectful — has also been renamed and is now under the title “NOLA Woads.”
“We are responding to the concerns of numerous Catholic students and members of the Chaplain’s Office,” Alexandre said. “We do not believe this name change will have any negative impacts on today’s event or on those participating in Ash Wednesday.”
Alexandre had previously told the News that the name would not change, and responded to student concerns on the Facebook page by citing her own Catholic upbringing and inviting concerned community members to reach out to her directly.
Before the name change was announced, many students had vocally advocated for a more respectful title. Some students had even advocated for a boycott of the event if its name did not change. Many Catholic students interviewed said they did not object to a Mardi Gras-themed event, or to Woads being held on Ash Wednesday, but said the combination of the two caused concern.
“Hosting what is essentially a Fat Tuesday celebration on Wednesday and calling it ‘Fat Woads,’ … is ignoring the historical and religious relevance of traditions like Mardi Gras and Lent,” Renee Breer ’16 said prior to the name change. “It is in particularly bad taste for such an event to be hosted by YCC, which is supposed to represent and support all Yalies of any religion, culture or background.”
Mardi Gras festivities typically span multiple weeks, Catholic student Helder Toste ’16 said, and had the event been hosted last week, a Mardi Gras theme would have been equally appropriate and less objectionable. Emmy Reinwald ’17, one of the first to raise concerns on the Fat Woads Facebook page, said she does not believe the name was purposefully offensive but maintained that it was a “bad judgment call.”
Not all students within the Catholic community shared the objection. James Kochanski ’19, a practicing Catholic at Yale, said he found the decision to host a Fat Tuesday-themed event on Ash Wednesday unusual but not controversial, and he attributed the theme to marketing rather than ill intent. Both Reinwald and Toste described the situation as an isolated incident, and applauded the YCC for its usual hard work in creating inclusive events.
According to the Saint Thomas More website, over 25 percent of students at Yale are Roman Catholic.