Administrators and easily-offended groups at several public universities are requesting that students eschew all but the most politically-correct costumes this Halloween.
At the University of Colorado–Boulder, students have been specifically warned against donning cultural garb for Halloween.
Cowboys and Indians? Forget about it. Japanese geishas? Nope. Sombreros and panchos? Discouraged, of course. (RELATED: Latino student group says eating tacos is offensive to Mexicans)
“As a CU Buff, making the choice to dress up as someone from another culture, either with the intention of being humorous or without the intention of being disrespectful, can lead to inaccurate and hurtful portrayals of other peoples’ cultures in the CU community,” wrote Christina Gonzales, CU dean of students, in a statement to the campus.
Gonzales also called for tame Halloween parties that would offend no one.
“Some students have also hosted offensively-themed parties that reinforce negative representations of cultures as being associated with poverty,” she wrote. “While everyone has the freedom to be expressive, we also encourage you to celebrate that you are a part of a vibrant, diverse CU community that strives toward respecting others.”
She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The University of Minnesota–Twin Cities took a similarly hostile stance toward ethnic Halloween costumes in a statement to students.
“In particular, please keep in mind that certain Halloween costumes inappropriately perpetuate racial, cultural, and gender stereotypes,” wrote UM administrators Katrice Albert and Danita M. Brown Young. “Although it may not be the intent, these costumes, and choosing to wear them, can depict identities in ways that are offensive or hurtful to others.”
Unlike CU, UM thinks cowboy costumes are okay, at least. But not Indians.
“Cowboys, for instance — totally fine,” said Mike Schmit, UM student government president, in a statement to the Star-Tribune. “Indians — not totally fine.”
But at CU, not so.
“When you dress up as a cowboy, and you have your sheriff badge on and a big cowboy hat, that’s not a representation of a cowboy, that’s not a representation of people who work on a ranch that’s not a representation of people who live in the West, that’s kind of a crude stereotype,” said Bronson Hilliard, a spokesperson for CU, in a statement to Campus Reform.
At Ohio State University, a student group is getting in on the fun–or lack of fun–too.
Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) is a social justice and racial issues advocacy group at OSU that has launched a poster campaign to deter students from wearing ethnic Halloween costumes this year, according to The College Fix.
The group’s posters say, “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” and “When This is How the World Sees You, It’s Just Not Funny.” The posters depict people dressed up in costumes that the group considers racist, including a woman in blackface, a Japanese geisha, an Arabian sultan and a Mexican vaquero.
The group did not respond to a request for comment.
If you’re a student looking to avoid giving offense during Halloween this year, just stick to being a “sexy” ghost, or something.