For a campus so rightfully concerned with the power and importance of names, there is one glaringly under-discussed example: GPSCY, the name of the graduate student bar at 204 York St.
To be fair, I am not a fan of the Gryphon’s Pub at GPSCY for reasons besides its name. For one, the walkway outside always smells like vomit and stale beer (and you thought undergraduates were supposed to be the messy ones). But mostly, I don’t like the graduate student bar because I don’t like institutions that casually deal in bigotry, whether intentional or not.
I understand that GPSCY stands for Graduate and Professional Student Center at Yale, but that doesn’t stop every single person at this university from pronouncing it like g—-, which I have to assume was intentional in the formation of the acronym. The word is a slur. Specifically, it’s a slur against the Roma, a historically marginalized itinerant ethnic group. Not every member of the Roma considers the word to be offensive, but enough do that non-Roma people should not be using the word at all. Members of the community who self-identify as g—— are well within their rights to do so, but that doesn’t mean that anyone else should be throwing the word around, especially in contexts that don’t specifically have to do with the Roma.
The history of discrimination against the Roma goes back thousands of years and continues to this day. During World War II, the Nazis committed genocide against the Roma (the genocide is referred to as the Porajmos) at the same time that they committed genocide against the Jews. Of the approximately 1 million Roma living in Europe at the start of WWII, an estimated 25 to 50 percent of them were wiped out. Even in the 21st century, discrimination against the Roma remains widespread. Roma children all across Europe are either placed into segregated schools that offer a lower quality education or are segregated into all-Roma classes within larger schools. According to a 2010 study, 45 percent of Czechs don’t want there to be Roma in the Czech Republic at all.
Beginning in 2005, Germany deported some 50,000 Roma asylum seekers who had fled during the Kosovo War back to Kosovo; many of these refugees had been in the country for more than 10 years. Following the end of the Kosovo War in 1999, nearly 80 percent of Kosovo’s Roma population was expelled from the country. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, discrimination is common against both the Roma and the Irish Travellers, an entirely different historically itinerant ethnic group who are also often referred to as g—— in the UK and Ireland. Far-right groups across Europe regularly target the Roma politically. Stereotypes about their criminal nature or their dirtiness or their laziness persist.
In the United States, Roma immigrants have tended to assimilate into American society, making anti-Roma sentiment less common here. However, what has happened instead is the appropriation of the Roma identity as the “g—- lifestyle,” which, although not malicious in intent, traffics in the same kinds of stereotypes that fuel anti-Roma sentiment in Europe. All in all, there’s no excuse for us, as Americans, to casually throw around the word g—-. It’s simply not our word to throw around.
I’m not Roma, and as far as I know, no one I know identifies as Roma. I don’t even know if there are any Roma at Yale — but just because there may not be members of the community on campus does not mean that we should sit back, rest easy and continue to refer to an institutionalized part of Yale using an ethnic slur. The bar already has another name, “The Gryphon’s Pub,” making this situation easy to solve. Can’t we make the transition to calling it that rather than GPSCY?
I’ve been thinking about writing this op-ed since my first year at Yale. I never did it because I have no interest, in general, in writing op-eds and was hoping that someone else would take up this cause for me. But I’m a senior now — and as far as I can tell, no one has written about this in my entire time at Yale — so I’m doing my best before I leave this place. Names matter, and people at this university have recognized that fact. We should continue that work here, in order to make this place more equitable and more accountable to those who occupy it.
Emma Keyes is a senior in Pierson College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .