Archive for the ‘John Engen’ Category

by Jay Stevens

The big issue swirling around campus is the University student government – ASUM – has banned the Pickle Barrel from using Griz cards to pay for meals over an incident where a Saudi exchange student was denied service at the store. The store manager, Ryan Dutton, claimed he had gotten into a late-night drunken altercation with the student, Abdulaziz Aljama, and refused to serve him. The owner backed him up, saying the store has the right to refuse service to anyone. Aljama felt it was his skin color that got him booted. ASUM agreed and created the controversy. Missoula police investigated and found no evidence of discrimination. Mayor Engen is now leading a review of the case because of its sensitivity.

The only thing that’s clear is that there’s no definitive conclusion that can be taken away from the incident. Considering Dutton was probably intoxicated at the time of his original altercation, it’s altogether possible he confused Aljama with someone else. It’s also likely that Aljama felt that his skin color was used as the basis of Dutton’s claim.

What is clear is that the reaction to the incident was overblown. ASUM was way to hasty in its condemnation of the store. But then ASUM’s action is more than offset by stuff like this:

I didn’t think the admission of Saudi exchange students to the University of Montana would pass without an incident of some kind, but one would think Abdulaziz Aljama could perhaps find a better target than The Pickle Barrel, though for Saudi’s I suppose we should be grateful they chose The Pickle Barrel rather than the Sears Tower.

It’s paranoid fantasies about Saudi operatives “disguised” as students that make a strong statement against discrimination necessary.

Still, I think our mayor is doing the right thing by reviewing the case. It’s a tense situation, and everyone involved deserves the scrutiny the case is going to receive. I suspect the mayor won’t find that racism was the driving force behind the incident; I hope when he does, that ASUM backs down from its stance. (What is it doing battling off-campus issues anyway?) As for the other folks…well…bigotry is pretty deep-rooted. Not much you can do for them.

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