In preparation for Halloween, the University of Florida assures students it will provide counseling services around the clock to anyone who feels offended by a costume.
In a statement published on the school’s website, the university urged students to “think about your choices of costumes and themes,” and avoid costumes that look like they might be reinforcing a particular cultural, racial, gender, or religious stereotype.
A Caitlyn Jenner costume, for instance, is “exploitative and transphobic,” according to an online petition to ban retailers who sold Caitlyn costumes last year.
“Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offense to groups of people,” the website reads, reminding students that violating such guidelines can negatively impact their reputations and job perspectives.
Even wearing a seemingly benign cultural outfit such as a Mexican sombrero in a group photo can lead to public humiliation and forced apologies, as had occurred to the University of Louisville president last Halloween. Failure to join the boycott of “offensive” Halloween costumes can lead professors to be publicly shamed and driven out of their positions, which is what happened at Yale last year after a professor attempted to defend the First Amendment rights of students to wear the Halloween costumes of their choice.
The school’s statement encourages students who feel offended by such offensive costumes to take advantage of the school’s 24/7 counseling center and report “incidences of bias” to the University of Florida’s Bias Education and Response Team (BERT) for further support. The following is an excerpt from the school’s statement earlier this week:
If you are troubled by an incident that does occur, please know that there are many resources available. Please take advantage of the 7 day a week presence of the U Matter, We Care program at the University of Florida by emailing email@example.com. Additionally, there is a 24/7 counselor in the Counseling and Wellness Center available to speak by phone at 352-392-1575. Lastly, the Bias Education and Response Team at the University of Florida is able to respond to any reported incidents of bias, to educate those that were involved, and to provide support by connecting those that were impacted to the appropriate services and resources. You may submit a bias incident report at www.umatter.ufl.edu/stopbias.
“Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offense to groups of people.”
University of Florida
On the BERT website, students are told to report suspected “bias incidents” to the school’s police department, which will take an anonymous witness form of the person who is suspected of having bias, the location and times the bias may have emerged, and even reasons as to why that particular person is thought to have bias. A section of the police form is also designated to fill a description of the biased person’s appearance and clothing.
“Depending on the circumstances, we might reach out to the person who was listed as wearing the costume and see what support or resources they might need as well,” University of Florida spokeswoman Janine Sikes said. “No one is required to talk to BERT. If the individuals involved desires further conversations with us or each other, we would help facilitate this.”
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