Almost a year ago today, several students walked into the Heilman Dining Center wearing sombreros and ponchos to raucously celebrate the arrival of Halloween and ended up defending themselves against accusations of cultural appropriation and racism. This year, on Oct. 24, in the same dining hall packed with diners talking about what to wear for Halloween, several students told The Collegian that they learned from last year.
“I personally don’t have the desire to dress up as something controversial,” first-year Sophia Harvey said.
Several student organizations have come together to help the campus avoid last year’s cultural sensitivity issues, which also included a student dressing up as a rice farmer and one as an ICE agent.
On Oct. 18, using an Instagram page called, “Let’s have a healthy Halloween,” the Westhampton Student Government Association, Richmond College Student Government Association, the Student Center for Equity and Inclusion, the Center for Student Involvement, the Well-being Center and several student organizations launched a campaign that has offered specific tips for how to best participate in Halloween festivities. Their first post was about costumes.
That post instructed students to think twice about the impact of the costume they choose. “What may be funny to you could be a harmful stereotype to others,” it said. The post said that if students are unsure of the meaning of someone's costume, they should ask them about it.
On a busy dining hall night, junior Ann Sabin, who transferred to The University of Richmond this year, said the increased conversation around culture appropriation in the past couple of years had helped her feel confident and comfortable with her ability to choose a costume.
“Everyone deserves to be part of a respectful community and I want to do my part to uphold our standards of safety and respect,” first-year Camille Duran said after seeing the Instagram campaign. “I don’t feel restricted in my costume choice because I don’t inherently want to wear anything that would make another member of my community feel unsafe or harmed.”
The second post of the campaign was released Oct. 23 and was focused on consent. The post reminded students to “seek a clear, capacitated, affirmative YES for every partner, every act, every time in sexual interactions.”
The posts have since been reposted by other organizations on campus, including the Panhellenic Council’s Instagram.
The students who agreed to talk with The Collegian on Oct. 24 in the dining hall said that they knew how to appropriately choose what to wear this year for Halloween and did not feel restricted.
“I feel pretty free in choosing a Halloween costume, I think that it’s not that hard to not be offensive,” sophomore Will Anderson said.
Many universities have had bias incidents like UR’s and have made efforts to guide students on costume decisions. On Oct. 25, Michigan State University’s Department of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion issued instructions for students to follow in their costume selection.
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The article says that experts suggest considering the following questions when selecting costumes this season:
- What does my wearing of the costume convey?
- Does the costume challenge or misrepresent my value system?
- Might this costume perpetuate harm or violence that a group has experienced?
- Does this costume reference a certain culture or identity and, if so, is it mine to claim?
Students at the UR are encouraged by the WSGA, RCSGA, SCEI, CSI, the Well-being Center and several student organizations to think twice about their costumes and the impact they could have on the community.
“I think we can all be a little bit more sensitive to everyone else's feelings and ideologies,” first year Maddox Lowe said.
Contact contributing writer Carly Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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