Halloween ranks high on the social calendar of many college students, but the University of Minnesota has put out a warning message in effort to keep it classy on campus.
The University of Minnesota Office of Student Affairs emailed a letter to students saying some costumes "inappropriately perpetuate racial, cultural and gender stereotypes," and urged them to choose carefully.
The letter was emailed Oct. 10 to students at both Twin Cities campuses, warning students that an insensitive photo that winds up on social media sites could haunt them for the rest of their lives.
In a world of raunchy music videos and irreverent celebrities, students have a wide variety of costumes to draw from, and while the letter doesn't point out any specific items to avoid, a friendly reminder from a school official can be helpful when parents aren't around to offer up some wisdom.
In a tech-filled era where selfies can be seen in seconds, an offensive or hurtful image could have a long-term impact on a reputation. Consider the case of the two off-duty St. Paul police officers who dressed as Somali women last year, donning a traditional hijab. The Muslim community was outraged, and it definitely had in impact on their day-to-day at work.
Examples of bad judgement abound. At Northwestern, a couple of students drew scorn for wearing black face. A Penn State sorority held a Mexican-themed party where they held signs that read, "I don't cut grass, I smoke it."
Halloween is sure to flourish in Dinkytown, but across the border, the University of Wisconsin's infamous Freakfest celebration attracts revelers by the thousands to State Street, prompting students on campus to express the same concern as their Big Ten neighbor.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Multicultural Student Center published a blog, "Does this costume make me look racist?" on Oct. 15 that highlights ignorance that comes with selecting an inappropriate costume. However, the author says that instead of labeling students as racist or insensitive, it's important for them to understand why the costume is offensive, and that includes a basic message: Students come in all backgrounds, ethnicities and creeds.
A public awareness campaign called We're a Culture, Not a Costume is trying to raise awareness on college campuses to impress upon young people that a shock-value look could cost a job offer down the line. Several students who spoke with Fox 9 News say that's a lesson they've already taken to heart because they know nothing disappears on the Internet.