Northwestern calls for discretion when choosing Halloween costumes

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

Following a history of racially insensitive Halloween costumes at Northwestern, the University reminded students in an email Friday to consider the impact their outfits may have.

In the email, Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president of Student Affairs, referenced the controversy that arose three years ago when two white students wore blackface for Halloween.

“Halloween can also unfortunately be a time when the normal thoughtfulness and sensitivity of most NU students can be forgotten and some poor decisions can be made,” Telles-Irvin wrote.

Telles-Irvin said the culturally insensitive costume choices have not been directed at one group, but have “impacted religious beliefs, various ethnicities and gender expressions.”

She then included a list of questions for students to ask themselves to determine if their costume could potentially offend someone.

The University has reminded students to think about their costume choices carefully every year since the 2009 incident. The past two years, Burgwell Howard, assistant vice president of student engagement, sent the reminder.

“Given that colleges are dynamic places, that welcome a new 25 percent of its student population every year, it is important that those of us who have been in the community longer — students, staff and faculty, take time to educate folks about important moments in our history, as well as to share the lessons learned,” Howard said Tuesday in an email.

Students share the concerns about the potential for racial insensitivity this Halloween. The Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance launched a campaign through social media, called “Don’t mess up when you dress up.”

“Frankly, I know there are a lot of people tired of having to go through discussions where people don’t know why what they’re doing is offensive,” NAISA co-president Adam Mendel said.

— Cat Zakrzewski