UT issues checklist to help students avoid offensive costumes, parties on Halloween

“You don’t have bad intentions, but your costume idea could have a negative impact,” two pages of guidelines issued to students by UT’s Office of the Dean of Students begin.

(6/22/2010) – James Brosher/AMERICAN-STATESMAN – The University of Texas Tower is seen on Tuesday, June 22, 2010. The 307-foot tall tower's observation deck will be closed for several months starting Sunday to allow construction crews to install a new air condition system for the building.

American-Statesman file photo

The guidelines are meant to serve as an “introduction” to cultural appropriation and were posted to the university’s website ahead of the Halloween festivities, according to the Houston Chronicle. They include questions that students might ask themselves about their costume or party idea to help determine whether or not it could have a negative effect on others, including, “If someone laughed at our theme, who would they be laughing at?” and “Have we consulted with “experts”?”

As the Washington Post reports, several colleges have offered students similar guidance, including Tulane University and the University of Colorado at Boulder, while others, like the California Institute of Technology, strictly avoid instructing students on the matter.

In an email to the Washington Post, UT spokesman J.B. Bird said, “The University of Texas Austin does not place limits on students’ freedom of expression,” but aims “to educate students and remind them that they are accountable.”

Included in UT’s guidelines is a list of specific “harmful themes or costumes,” like “south of the border/fiesta,” “cowboys and Indians” and “ghetto fabulous,” which students are advised to avoid. Also provided is a list “themes to consider,” or themes that might seem harmless at first but can be carried “incorrectly.”

You can read the full list of guidelines here.

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