NU to Students: No Offensive Halloween Costumes

Stacy St. Clair, WGN-TV (Chicago), October 27, 2010

Despite their lofty SAT scores and sterling academic credentials, some Northwestern University students apparently need remedial instruction when it comes to selecting appropriate Halloween costumes.

In an e-mail sent to the campus late Monday, Dean of Students Burgwell Howard warned against wearing racially or culturally insensitive costumes this weekend. He also discouraged “ghetto,” “pimps and hos” and “gangsta” parties at the esteemed Evanston university.

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The directive follows a 2009 incident in which two students attended a Halloween party in black face and pictures of their costumes appeared on Facebook. The photos sparked outrage at the university and prompted a public forum to discuss racism on the predominately white campus.

In a similar 2007 episode, two Ph. D. students posted pictures of themselves in blackface around Halloween.

“In many cases the student wearing the costume has not intended to offend, but their actions or lack of forethought have sent a far greater message than any apology could after the fact,” Howard wrote.

And lest there be any confusion, Howard provided students with a list of questions to ask before selecting one’s Halloween attire: Is the costume based on making fun of real people or cultures? Does the costume promote cultural myths? Could someone take offense to it?

Students who answered “yes” to any of these questions were urged to rethink their choices.

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