(By: Subi Anandarajah)
As students prepare for Halloween, students at a certain university will have to be careful about what they choose to wear for this year.
This is the second year that Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) will be enforcing their Halloween Costume Vetting Protocol.
On their website, students will find a list of Halloween costumes the campus deems as offensive, including ceremonial dresses, traditional head dresses, blackface, a Caitlyn Jenner costume, and costumes of people who make jokes about rape or suicide.
Through the ban, the Brock University Students’ Union aims to help students understand the historical and cultural context that makes these costumes offensive.
According to second-year social work student Teri Freeman, the ban is important because it develops an understanding among students and prevents any kind of exclusion.
“In a school environment, I think it’s important to know that we need to be aware of the fact that other people have different stories around us and it’s not always appropriate to shove something like that in people’s faces.”
Other Ryerson students believe the student union should not be in charge of making these decisions for the students themselves.
“I understand where they’re coming from too. Of course, costumes can be offensive, but any sort of clothing or any kind of costume might be offensive to someone. It’s impossible to please people in that regard,” says first-year dance student Ethan Kim.
Overall, a lot of Ryerson students believe the best way to prevent others from wearing offensive costumes is to raise awareness.
“I don’t think outright banning something is the best way to go upon it because people get upset, but at the same time, doing something so extreme is kind of bad. The best thing for them to do would have been to raise awareness, like seminars on campus,” said third-year computer science student Arsalan Farooqui.
Ellen Pitt, a fourth-year journalism student, also agrees that providing context is crucial if the ban is necessary.
“You don’t want them to just react negatively and say ‘I can do whatever I want! It’s not fair!’, and not have the education or understand the background. I think if they’re going to do it, it’s a good idea but it has to be supplemented with an educational aspect, so people really do understand why it’s problematic and why it’s something they should think a little bit more about.”
While Ryerson does not have its own policy for appropriate Halloween costumes, the Ryerson Students’ Union believes the possibility of a protocol depends on the students.
“What happened at Brock was a first step for many universities to look into this, and currently what the RSU is doing is that Tamara is getting in touch with students at Brock University and they’re trying to look into what the processes were to set up a policy there. They want to implement it not only for Halloween costumes, but looking into other events and costume dress ups, and create some sort of policy around that,” said RSU President Obaid Ullah.
“Obviously we’d have a consultation about the policy first before we were actually to implement it or pass it, but right now the first step is to see what Ryerson does and Tamara, the vice-president equity is looking into it.”
Brock University is not the only post-secondary school that has created a protocol for Halloween costumes. Whether Ryerson will create its own protocol remains to be seen.