University of Colorado-Boulder Tells Students Not To Dress As Cowboys, Indians, or Other “Offensive” Outfits

hallocostumes005Students at the University of Colorado at Boulder have been told this year that some standard costumes are now deemed “offensive” and are unacceptable. This includes costumes as cowboys, indians and anything involving a sombrero. Once again, I am concerned that these rules based on tolerance values are intruding into the speech rights of students and wrongly assumes that all such outfits are derogatory to a particular race or culture.

There is no explanation why dressing as a cowboy is now offensive. However, I also fail to see how the university can declare outfits as indians or including sombreros are now deemed to be offensive. Both are part of a shared history in this country. I have had kids who dressed as little indians for Halloween. My kids love the Indian culture and wanted to engage in harmless play acting.

Why not prohibit Viking outfits as offensive to those of Norse bloodlines or animal outfits as objectifying wild animals for sensitive environmentalists?

Also declared unacceptable are any outfits depicting “white trash” or “over-sexualized” outfits like dressing as a geisha. There remains a part of university faculties and student bodies who insist on shaping conduct and choices of students according to their notion of ideal behavior. It becomes a slippery slope as any objection from any student or professor is deemed sufficient to show it is indeed offensive. The student code includes this provision:

Abusive Conduct. Unwelcome conduct by an individual(s) that is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of education or employment and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, hostile or offensive. The determination of whether an environment is “hostile” must be based on all of the circumstances. These circumstances could include the frequency of the conduct, its severity, and whether it is threatening or humiliating. Simple teasing, offhand comments and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not amount to abusive conduct.

If someone now holds a Cowboy and Indian themed Halloween party, would’t it be viewed as offensive to a reasonable person in light of the university warning? After all, the code lists a premeditated act as an aggravator for discipline:

“Aggravating Factor. Any circumstances accompanying the commission of misconduct that adds to its seriousness. Examples may include the use of violence or force, violation of a trust or duty, premeditation of an incident, the existence of a previous conduct violation, and elements of hate and bias.”

My point is that there is a value to allowing people to express themselves and to accept that we live in a society of different views and values. The alternative is the slippery slope displayed in Colorado as we add more and more things deemed offensive until we are left with princess outfits (subject to objections that they foster female stereotypes) and ghost outfits (subject to those who view it as an insult to religious sensibilities).

Christina Gonzales, the dean of students, is not saying that students will be charged with improper conduct. However, if the school deems such outfits to be offensive, it is hard to see how the students are expected to know where the line is drawn.

I understand her warning that “Making the choice to dress up as someone from another culture, either with the intention of being humorous or without the intention of being disrespectful, can lead to inaccurate and hurtful portrayals of other people’s cultures.”  Here is the original letter which raises valid points for students to consider.

 

I can understand the warning but the scope of what is deemed offensive is troubling in my view. While this letter does not suggest disciplinary action, my concern is the direction of such standards given the equally broad standards for disciplinary action for hostile, disrespectful, or insensitive speech on some campuses.

The warning includes “negative representations of cultures as being associated with poverty (“ghetto” or “white trash/hillbilly”), crime or sex work” is not acceptable. One spokesman said cowboy costumes are one such example that constitutes a “crude stereotype.” It reflects the same concern that I have previously addressed in the loss of free speech rights in the name of tolerance and pluralism.

The objections to all Native American costumes appear to have reached retailers. One leading costume site adds the following statement to its costumes:

I understand that many may disagree with my concerns on this story and, again, I understand that the university is trying to encourage more respectful outfits on campus. I agree with that warning. However, if outfits like Indians and cowboys are considered offensive, should they be subject to the enforcement of the student code for offensive conduct?

Source: Yahoo

61 thoughts on “University of Colorado-Boulder Tells Students Not To Dress As Cowboys, Indians, or Other “Offensive” Outfits

  1. The University of Minnesota is doing the same thing. True progressives and lovers of the First Amendment, there is a PC war, and the universities are leading the way! Orwell is crying.

  2. Jonathan, if you read the original document, there’s nothing in there that says such costumes are unacceptable. It’s actually quite a gently worded letter asking students to be sensitive and consider the effect when choosing costumes that may reflect offensive stereotypes.

    Which I think is a reasonable request.

    Fox News–which I note was quoted in the article you referenced–has blown it all out of proportion and made inaccurate statements about it.

    You can read the original letter here: http://media.salon.com/2013/10/Screen-Shot-2013-10-24-at-4.09.22-PM.png

    Not everything is an assault on free speech.

    I think it’s very important, when passing on stories of this nature, to reference original sources rather than secondhand “news” reports about them.

  3. “According to Gonzales, CU students have chosen costumes that “included blackface or sombreros/serapes,” overly sexualized “geishas,” “squaws” and stereotypes such as cowboys and Indians. They have also hosted “offensively-themed parties,” including “ghetto,” “white trash/hillbilly” and “sex work.”

    The parties, she wrote, “reinforce negative representations of cultures as being associated with poverty.”

    Last year, a Penn State sorority was put on probation after throwing a Mexican-themed party where guests dressed up in sombreros, mustaches and ponchos.

    “How any constituent groups or individuals in the University could behave with such insensitivity or unawareness is a question we must both ask and answer,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson wrote in an open letter to the Penn State community. ” Yahoo news. I think one has to understand the culture in which this going on. A lot of bros from Dallas go to UC Boulder. There is a well known nearly all white high school in Dallas where they celebrate “thug day” and “fiesta day”. The students come dressed in black face and wearing sombreros. Some have been known to carry lawn blowers to mock the Mexican workers that care for their lawns.

  4. Mel…what a bunch of junk. When an authoritative source sends out “a gently worded letter” cautioning you to be “sensitive,” it’s not a suggestion. I’ll guarantee any next infraction post-facto will result in some stupid punishment that Jonathan will then report on how stupid political correctness is….especially due to this stupid letter.

    I am a cowboy, raised and spent many years on a ranch in Montana, I dress often like a cowboy, I enjoy it, I will continue to dress like a cowboy if I want and I don’t give a diddly damn who it offends. If we run and hide from everyone who cries they are offended, my God man we may as well all lock ourselves in a closet. We have mute buttons and channel changers on our TV remotes, you don’t have to go to a movie or a church if it offends you, we can change channels or listen to our own music on our Ipods, and we have necks and eyes that can turn and look the other way. How about you PC’ers giving the rest of us who are more tolerant a break and lay off the moaning and groaning. Let people be people. You can always move to Russia if you’re looking for someplace with stricter laws laid down by the “ruling class.”

  5. I am deeply offended by this letter. So that means that the writer should take my feelings into account and retract this letter. I am a veteran who served in wartime to preserve protect and defend the Constitution of the US which includes the First Amendment and just because it says Congress cannot pass laws against free speech, free press, and religion, does NOT give her the right to void it by administrative fiat. The Constitution does not say that you have the right to not be offended by some speech or action. If she is to be taken seriously, then she should recant her letter since it deeply offends me and others to live up to her stance that offense should never be allowed on campus. So by her own standards, she is guilty of what she inveighs against.

  6. Back in 1992 an artist named Christo placed thousands of huge umbrellas along the ‘grapevine’ or highway into Los Angeles. He did this in Japan as well, at the same time. Unfortunately there were two deaths, one in Japan and one on the grapevine when a strong gust of wind blew an umbrella onto a woman and she died.

    At a Halloween party a few days after a young graduate student of architecture came dressed as a woman with the remains of an umbrella wrapped around him.

    The question is, does one enjoy these dark expressions or does one ban every move that might offend someone, even when they are not there.

    The human condition is so full of flaws and has been slowly evolving to work the more destructive of these flaws out of its system. However, as great comedians such as Mel Brooks have taught us, we need to laugh at ourselves occasionally. What would life be like if we lived it without any humor, any reverence to past myths, any daydreams, any wonderment at all? The recent arguments involving the Washington Redskins and other disputable positions regarding supposed slurs should be enough, along with this article, to make us stop and think if we really need to eradicate our history or can we laugh at ourselves like Mel Brooks, Jew, who fought in WW2, and made jokes all along the way.

  7. The May Day Tribe needs to show up at the Dean’s Office and Occupy Deans Office USA. The May Day Tribe, if anyone can recall since there is no history preserved in this country, was a group of protesters who invaded Washington DC on May Day in 1971 and as a Tribe told the government to shut down the war in Vietnam or we would shut down the government. So we shut down the government. I am a proud member of the May Day Tribe and if I was in Colorado I would call for the ouster of this University President.
    You kids these days eat way too much apCray and cannot stand up for your rights. A collection of costume wear at once would be appropriate: headdress, ankle shackle for slave, cowboy boots, lariot, rope, bows and arrows, bare chested women, Gypsy babies with their hands out. The whole gamut. Do exactly what the Dean says that you cannot do. She needs to go back to teaching kindergarten in East Germany.

  8. The Dean’s name is Christina Gonzales. Perhaps she should change her name to something more American. Lady Gaga would be good. And no hats at graduation, someone might think you are imitating Catholics. And no mascots for your sports teams. And no dogs on a leash.

  9. randyjet – There is not one single US military action since World War II that has been undertaken to “to preserve protect and defend the Constitution of the US”. Every military action since then has simply aggrandized US power and expanded the country’s imperialism. Further, US wars have absolutely nothing to do with the subject of this post. Stop being naive and self-congratulatory.

  10. Although I deplore this infringement on the First Amendment, it’s good to see white trash entering the protected classes. Pretty soon we’ll be a joyless, humorless, culture, but Sensitive…we will be sensitive. Sounds like a great plan. Wasn’t this the message in Invasion of the Body Snatchers? I was a hobo about 7 years for Halloween . How do I repent, I have hobo guilt.

  11. My husband dresses like a cowboy all the time because he was, for several years, an actual cowboy on a horse herding cattle. I wonder if I should suggest he’s dressing insensitively when he goes to a Cleveland Indians game.

    (Hopefully someone will catch the deep sarcasm in that remark)

  12. Someone take some photos of Dean Gonzales in her Sunday best. Then duplicate the outfit. Have the boys of the Boulder Tribe wear the outfit and affront gays. Then she can not sanction anyone for offending gays because they dress just like her. Then, if she is married take photo of usbandHay (pig latin) and imitate him. You kids out there in Boulder have to stand up and be tough. Next thing she will do is take away your football team. Then your debate team. Then your team of horses.

  13. Betcha anything the letter writer regrets the example of a cowboy as a stereotype. But it did serve up a nice juicy headline doesn’t it?
    Hopefully, Boulder is full of critical thinkers and “gets” the point of the letter. Or are we all now in favor of bringing back minstrel shows and Goldman Sachs throwing more “homeless” parties? Remember that one? But it IS a class act when the costume includes a leaf-blower, isn’t it. Let’s all sit around and laugh at what a great costume that is, huh.

  14. University of Colorado-Boulder Tells Students Not To Dress As Cowboys, Indians, or Other “Offensive” Outfits” – JT

    Good, I can’t stand “other” offensive outfits.

  15. nick spinelli 1, October 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Although I deplore this infringement on the First Amendment, it’s good to see white trash entering the protected classes. Pretty soon we’ll be a joyless, humorless, culture, but Sensitive…we will be sensitive. Sounds like a great plan. Wasn’t this the message in Invasion of the Body Snatchers? I was a hobo about 7 years for Halloween . How do I repent, I have hobo guilt.
    ===========================
    “white trash entering the protected classes”

    I think all classes at Libery U should be protected.

    “we’ll be a joyless, humorless, culture, but Sensitive”

    Not likely, until you all use protection.

    “we will be sensitive. Sounds like a great plan”

    You are already sensitive … remember tell how emotional you are and how geeky intellectuals who squeeze their emotions are irrational?

    “Wasn’t this the message in Invasion of the Body Snatchers?”

    No, the message was don’t watch stupid grade B movies.

    “I was a hobo about 7 years for Halloween . How do I repent, I have hobo guilt.”

    Give me three guesses. Keep the guilt, the exorcism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
    :) ;) ;-)

  16. nick, I don’t have all the facts but I see it as an attempt to reign in some of the excesses in the frat culture that dominates CU. My son lives and works in Boulder but he did not attend CU. I do have a nephew that did. I know a bit about the scene there as I visit quite often. The partying will be outrageous on Pearl St where anything goes, and I doubt in the end that anyone will pay much attention to Ms Gonzales. Checked the “Daily Camera”, the Boulder paper, and there was no mention of this.

  17. SWM, Maybe you heard, but Madison used to have out of control Halloween parties. The city tried to be permissive, but it got way out of control. Kids from as far as UT and OSU would come to town. They would take over the equivalent of Boulder’s State St. w/ crowds exceeding 100k. After ~5 years of escalating problems there was an actual riot. That was the end of laissez-faire. To their credit, the city has done a very good job making it a music event. Same location, but you have to pay a small fee[$5]. There’s still a lot of drinking, and some arrests, but under control. Madison is the PC capitol, however, I have never heard of any costumes causing outrage. People are creative, the costume being an expression of the person. You know SWM, I get the intention of this type of attempt to not be offensive. But, this is America. Maybe, w/ cannabis being legal in Co., it will be more mellow. College kids drink booze a lot more than wine or beer like we did. UW is disturbing on football Sundays. I have 2 friends coming out from Jersey. We’re going to a UW game on the 9th and a Packer game on the 10th of November. Being Jet and Eagles fans, they’re shockproof.

  18. While I agree that some of these parties are offensive, we either have free speech or we don’t.. Free speech can get messy, but the alternative is censorship gone wild.

  19. SWM, There was a big controversy ~3 years ago @ the U. of Ca. San Diego. A fraternity held a party called Compton Night in honor of Black History Month. Compton is the hood in LA. Guests were urged to dress ghetto and there were other racial stereotypes. I walk through that campus sometimes and it was abuzz w/ protests days afterwards. When suspensions and discipline were threatened, a group from NYC, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education[FIRE]stepped up to help the fraternity. They fight speech codes, censorship, etc. on campus. FIRE had the position that this is protected speech, ugly, but that’s the speech that needs protection. They also showed that while the party was @ the frat, it was organized by a shock jock, dj, rapper w/ the alias, Jigaboo Jones. This black performer had a new CD released and this was part of the promotion. From what I remember the University did their dog and pony show investigation and no actions were taken. There may have been some “double secret probation” but FIRE got the administrations minds right. I read their website @ times, it’s http://www.thefire.org. It might be a good resource for folks here, I bet Mr. Turley uses it.

  20. SWM, There was a big controversy ~3 years ago @ the U. of Ca. San Diego. A fraternity held a party called Compton Night in honor of Black History Month. Compton is the hood in LA. Guests were urged to dress ghetto and there were other racial stereotypes. I walk through that campus sometimes and it was abuzz w/ protests days afterwards. When suspensions and discipline were threatened, a group from NYC, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education[FIRE]stepped up to help the fraternity. They fight speech codes, censorship, etc. on campus. FIRE had the position that this is protected speech, ugly, but that’s the speech that needs protection. They also showed that while the party was @ the frat, it was organized by a shock jock, dj, rapper w/ the alias, Jigaboo Jones. This black performer had a new CD released and this was part of the promotion. From what I remember the University did their dog and pony show investigation and no actions were taken. There may have been some “double secret probation” but FIRE got the administrations minds right. I read their website @ times, it’s http://www.thefire.org. It might be a good resource for folks here, I bet Mr. Turley uses it although I don’t remember ever seeing it mentioned here.

  21. SwM,

    I wonder what would happen if all Black fraternities had a theme party and threw black paint on white students who passed by? I know a few ΑΦΑ members … I’ll ask them.

  22. nick spinelli 1, October 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Dredd, Great dissection! I like the Body Snatcher flicks. To each their own.
    ================
    Nobody always gets the message. Go for the message.

  23. Chrisina Gonzales needs to chill. Seriously. Forget Boulder on Halloween. Come to Mainz at Carnival time. She´d have the time of her life.

  24. I view the United States as an uncompleted experiment testing the proposition that the values of diversity and pluralism can thrive in a society committed to personal freedom. The success of that experiment has two components. The first is a willingness to admit all who wish to become part of the experiment without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, disability, political affiliation or religious belief. The second is a willingness to tolerate speech which offends race, gender, ethnicity, disability, political affiliation or religious belief. The experiment will fail to the extent that restrictions are imposed on either component.

  25. Dressing as a Marine would be more offensive to Americans because you know they are going to do exactly as their Comander in Chief tells them, be it the NDA Act or drone strikes in America. Can’t you lawyers convict ‘typical politicians’ for destroying our way of life? In Back To The Future they banned lawyers but forgot about judges & politicians (failed lawyers most of them).

  26. traveling limey,
    A Marine does follow orders but all of the Marines I know, they are very moral in all of their dealings with people. Secondly, lawyers don’t convict anyone. The jury or judges convict them. The lawyers present evidence and arguments in a controlled process to attempt to provide the judge or jury enough evidence to decide if a conviction is required.

  27. this is a bunch of raw mountain oysters!!!!! its the elites way of rewriting history. these costumes were not offensive for hundreds of years and now suddenly they are? GIVE ME A BLEEPING BREAK!! its all about rewriting history anyone remember the story about the texas company who publishes the history books for schools being told to leave out the history of slavery and anything that doesnt involve making any race non caucasian look like saviors instead of the truth..

    its bad enough they have been rewriting history for hundreds of years and leaving out and putting in what they feel makes it good to them. at least back then they hid it.. now its being done outright… and this is coming from a black woman who has traced her family history and is both african and native american….

  28. Once you start down this road, where does it stop? I doubt there are many costumes that couldn’t be construed as offensive to someone — so, apparently, where it stops is a ban on wearing costumes whatsoever.

    But, then, what is a costume? Like some other commenters, one of my various jobs is as an actual, working cowboy. Does that mean I can’t wear my work clothes on Halloween?

    I also dress as a pirate for fun and profit (historical re-enactor). Talk about a non-PC historical profession, which apparently doesn’t get specifically “banned” by this letter. This makes sense how…?

    I see the point of trying to limit insensitive displays, I really do — but this is really badly done…

  29. TG,
    You would be in double trouble, because Cap’n Zach is usually armed to the teeth. You wouldn’t happen to have an appropriate video to insert right about here would you?

  30. The irony….

    HumpinDog 1, October 26, 2013 at 7:50 am

    PEOPLE WHO WRITE IN ALL CAPS ON BLOGS ARE IDJITS.

  31. A university. Attended by adults. With a dress code which covers nothing whatsoever to do with university business, unless of course it were Miskatonic U.

    Dress up however you like. Make them come for you so you can then sue sue sue the nonsense out of these frightened children posing as administrators.

  32. Mommas don’t let your baby’s grow up to be cowboys….. Make em become…. Politically Correct to ……

  33. Y’all ought to dress up as Chip who is the mascot for the sport teams there.

    Google on Images Chip Univ of Colorado Boulder and you will see a good set of photos of Chip.

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