Administrators at Quinnipiac University appear to have taken the crusade against insensitive Halloween costumes to a new level, according to an article in The Quinnipiac Chronicle:
“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.
Yes, you read that correctly: The university’s chief diversity officer just said that dressing up like a sexy nurse or a prostitute for Halloween is equivalent to scrawling a vicious racial slur on someone’s dorm room whiteboard. Now, I am admittedly a sample of one here, but as both a lawyer and a Jewish person, I can conclusively say that I would much rather encounter someone wearing a “sexy prosecutor” costume than encounter them drawing a swastika on my door. But maybe that’s just me.
Making matters far worse, the Quinnipiac administration has threatened anyone failing to toe the sensitive-costume line with disciplinary action:
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.”
This may seem minor in comparison to other free speech controversies happening right now, such as the incident this week at Brown University where students participated in a protest so disruptive that the university had to shut down a talk by New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. But it is a perfect example of why so many students believe that the appropriate response to offensive or insensitive expression is simply to censor or punish it: Their colleges and universities are doing it, so why shouldn’t they?
Image: Quinnipiac University’s Arnold Bernhard Library – Wikimedia Commons