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Universities warn students of 'harmful' cultural appropriation during Halloween

Universities across the U.S. are warning students about the harm done by wearing Halloween costumes that might be offensive to other cultures. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

In preparation for Halloween, universities across the country are warning their students to be sensitive when choosing their costumes for the holiday, and particularly to steer clear of 'harmful' cultural appropriation so as not to offend other people.

What's going on at the universities?

A campuswide email, sent Thursday from Gonzaga University's Vice President for Student Development and obtained by Campus Reform, told students that while "the tradition of Halloween has Christian origins," it "has also become known for more dangerous and damaging traditions like binge drinking, sexualized or culturally inappropriate costumes and vandalism."

The email continued, "We urge our community to be aware of the potentially harmful impact insensitive behavior can have on fellow students... One of these behaviors is cultural appropriation — the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing respect of [sic] that culture."

Baylor University featured an article on its website Thursday that also cautioned students on Halloween attire. Professor Mia Moody-Ramirez explained that "cultural appropriation is distinct from equal cultural exchange because of the presence of power inequities."

Moody-Ramirez added that "Cultural appropriation is important to consider during Halloween because this is the time of year when we are most likely to dress up in a costume that is representative of another culture."

She warned against dressing in a way that might "provoke laughter rather than show respect for a group/person."

Princeton University's school newspaper also covered the topic on Thursday, offering further perspective for their student body by linking an article to a Facebook post showing several examples of inappropriate Halloween costumes.

"We wanted to dig into cultural appropriation beyond its most blatant and sensationalized forms and get a sense from campus leaders of how to approach the issue," the article said.

What did the student say?

In a blog post earlier this week featured on Colorado State University's HerCampus.com site, student Rebecca Sanchez wrote, "Dressing up as another person's culture may seem like it isn't causing any harm, but it is...a lot of it. When you dress up as someone else's culture, you're disregarding their cultural experiences. You're telling the world that their culture is a costume and not part of their identify."

"You may think you are appreciating the culture, but it's doing a lot of harm," she reiterated.

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