The University of Florida has published a blog post advising their students to think carefully when choosing a Halloween costume this year so as to not offend fellow students. And for those who are offended by any of the costumes, the university will provide a number of resources.
For one, the university is offering the “U Matter, We Care” program, a 24/7 on-call counselor at the university wellness center, and the Bias Education and Response Team (BERT), a service that is “able to respond to any reported incidents of bias, to educate those that were involved, and to provide support by connecting those that were impacted to the appropriate services and resources.”
As for the students doing the offending, the university has some strong words. They point out that Halloween costumes can publicly reinforce hurtful stereotypes of religion, race, gender, or culture. According to the university, diversity emphasizes celebrating the differences between individuals and communities and not spreading messages of belittlement and hate.
Regarding such hateful costumes, the university wrote:
“Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offense to groups of people. Also, keep in mind that social media posts can have a long-term impact on your personal and professional reputation.”
However, the university’s initiative took a hit last week when Fox Sports radio host Clay Travis called the counseling hotline live on air, pretending to be a gay student offended by a Harambe meme costume. Travis then gave the number out to his listeners, who began flooding the hotline with spam calls.
“Our role is to support students, and when we are diverted to having to deal with people calling in fake reports, we aren’t there to help our students,” said UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes in an official response to the spamming. “The university in no way is regulating Halloween costumes. Our students are free to wear whatever costumes they want.”
In response, Travis wrote, “Anyone who is offended by a Halloween costume is a complete and total loser deserving of ridicule and satirization.”