Syracuse University: Police Threaten to Censor Halloween Costumes

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Syracuse University

Anthony Callisto, Director of Syracuse University’s Department of Public Safety, told student newspaper The Daily Orange that DPS would require students to remove “offensive” Halloween costumes and would report students wearing such costumes to Syracuse’s Office of Judicial Affairs. Callisto said that “If we detect that there’s a person with an offensive costume, we’d likely require them to remove it, and we would file a judicial complaint” (Daily Orange, October 14, 2010). This article appeared three days after Thomas V. Wolfe, Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs, e-mailed the student body encouraging students to “be thoughtful and sensitive when choosing [their] costume[s]” because they put their safety in danger if others on campus became too offended by their costumes. Callisto’s statements violate Syracuse’s promises of free speech and chill student expression, and Wolfe’s statement promotes a “heckler’s veto” on campus. FIRE wrote Chancellor Nancy Cantor on November 18, 2010, asking her to make clear to students that they will not be investigated or prosecuted for their protected expression.