BOULDER, Colo. — Halloween is all about dressing up and pretending to be something or someone we’re not.
But the University of Colorado is making international news for its request that students not wear certain costumes.
“I’m supposed to be a grandma. So I’m wearing a vintage dress,” says Whitney Quinlan, looking for a costume at Candy’s Costumes in Boulder.
For Quinlan, part of the fun of Halloween is dressing up.
But CU says Halloween can bring some students down.
“We’ve had complaints from students. They’ve attended both on- and off-campus parties in which people have dressed as members of ethnic groups. They’ve dressed in stereotypical ways. And students found this kind of upsetting,” says CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard.
So CU launched an educational campaign across campus.
Students get the message from a student newsletter and on posters.
The campaign says, “We’re A Culture, Not A Costume. “ “This Is Not Who I Am, And This Is Not Okay.”
It shows a white girl in black face, a Saudi is portrayed as a terrorist, and a Hispanic wears a sombrero on a donkey.
So the university is asking students to stay away from costumes like a geisha or a Native American or anything with a sombrero.
It says the costumes inappropriately perpetuate racial, cultural and gender stereotypes.
And with growing numbers of minority and international students on campus, it can be especially offensive.
“That doesn’t really offend me because it would be in the spirit of Halloween. But I know there could be other people who’d get offended,” says Indonesian CU sophomore Maria Ronauli.
“I think you should think about it, ‘If this were me, how would I feel if someone were dressing up in a way that can be deemed as disrespectful or hurtful,” says CU sophomore Addie Haile.
“I think it could be an overreaction by CU, but there`s a reason for doing it,” says CU senior Anthony Gaglia.
But some say the school’s stance goes against freedom of expression and beyond political correctness.
“People debate what politically correct means. To me, this is good manners. Would you have a party on your block and invite your Latino neighbors and open the door with a sombrero and mustache on? It’s simple politeness. It’s about creating a welcoming environment. If people think that’s politically correct, then so be it,” says Hilliard.
He says students will not be disciplined for wearing stereotypical costumes. “There’s no costume police out looking for people’s costumes,” he says.
Several other universities have launched similar campaigns including the University of Ohio, Northwestern and University of Minnesota.