As students don their Halloween costumes tomorrow, administration wants students to make sure their costumes are not offensive to others.
“Costumes that exaggerate, stereotype, generalize a particular ethnic culture [or] gender, [are] insensitive,” Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Diane Ariza said.
This includes dressing up in “blackface, or as a Mexican, hooker, gangster or promiscuous nurse,” Ariza said. These costumes all have negative stereotypes attached to them and paint ethnicities or genders in a negative light, according to Ariza.
“It is as offensive as writing the ‘N-word’ on a blackboard or a chalkboard or a whiteboard in the dorms or in the residence halls,” she said.
Grad student Janelle Joseph agrees with Ariza, finding it very disrespectful when people dress as another ethnicity or race. Joseph said it was great that the university wants to spread awareness for this issue.
“Obviously you can’t please everyone, but as long as we have the awareness factor in place, we’ve done our part,” she said.
Sophomore Dominique Compito also finds some costumes, such as people who plan to dress up as Trayvon Martin, to be offensive.
“You think it’s funny, but it’s not,” Compito said. “But I don’t really think people are going to follow [the university’s request].
Historically, the university has not had an issue with students wearing offensive costumes, Monique Drucker, associate vice president of student affairs, said. Yet this has been a problem on other campuses, such as Penn State, according to Drucker. The university wants to be proactive to prevent students from offending others this Halloween.
“As an educator we have a responsibility to bring awareness, to educate our students, to help them to understand why it’s important for them to realize that it could be offensive or hurtful,” Drucker said. “I’m not expecting it to be a big concern, but I would rather be proactive than to be reactive and to have to work with students and think ‘Gosh I wish we had talk to them about this ahead of time.’”
If students do dress in a culturally offensive way this Halloween, Student Affairs will speak to them and explain why their costume could be hurtful.
“I’d like to believe that our students will respond to conversation,” Drucker said. “If they are not in compliance with us or if they challenge the conversation in a way that would be inappropriate, then we would be thinking about bringing them through student conduct.”
Student Affairs spoke with Resident Assistants and Residence Hall Directors to get this message out, according to Drucker. The Office of Multicultural and Global Education also emailed students to remind them to think about if their Halloween costumes are culturally appropriate.
Ariza says students do not realize this because they are just dressing up for fun.
“I don’t think it’s intentionally to hurt, but the outcome is very hurtful, even if it’s not conscious,” she said.
In addition to costumes, Drucker is also concerned with students’ safety this Halloween.
“You put the full mask on and you’re wearing dark clothing, you just have to think about being out at night,” Drucker said.
Other universities, such as UMass Amherst, have student-run groups that promote cultural sensitivity around Halloween, according to Drucker. Drucker hopes to collaborate with the Office of Multicultural and Global Education and the Public Safety Department to do something similar in the future.