Students warned against offensive Halloween costumes

Preceding the weekend of dressing up and parties around college campuses nationwide, an email was sent out to the UVM student body Oct. 27.

The email warned of the possibly unintended effects of certain Halloween costumes and encouraged students to be more cognizant of their clothing choices when dressing up.

“Some costumes can reinforce stereotypes, ignore the deep cultural significance of certain articles of clothing, and disregard the history of marginalized groups of people,” the email states.

The email, written by Sage Ryan, chair of the SGA Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, was just part of the University’s overall effort to make Halloween here a more respectful and tolerant experience.

Posters hung in dorm buildings and boards created by RAs around campus reinforce this message. “It’s my culture, not a costume,” one poster featured on Redstone Campus read, followed by pictures of costumes deemed insensitive for Halloween-goers to wear.

The discussion of cultural appropriation seems to be a fairly new one, but one that many institutions — particularly colleges — are latching onto in efforts to make their campus feel safer.

The University of Connecticut, the University of Utah, the University of Washington and the University of Oklahoma are all schools whose warnings to students regarding their costume choice have been highly publicized.  Many of those objecting to the movement have been rallying behind the all-too-common accusation of “[Politically correct] culture”.

One student from UW, in response to the aforementioned warning, is quoted in a 2015 New York Times article as saying that cultural sensitivity around the costumes is “becoming a bigger deal than it should be.”

While the topic has gained traction and efforts from the University were visible, just how successful were they?

According to sophomore Haley Brown, “there’s two types of cultural appropriation.”

“There’s international cultural appropriation, like kids dressing up in Mexican costumes, and there’s domestic cultural appropriation, which goes unrecognized,” she said.

“I saw a couple of those costumes over the weekend, my friend was a farmer, and it’s not necessarily a bad costume, but it goes unnoticed that it is appropriation.”