UMass-Amherst gears up for Halloween with “costume racism evaluation and assessment meter”
By Evan Lips | October 20, 2016, 16:55 EST
UPDATED w/comment from UMASS-Amherst (12:36 a.m.)
AMHERST — Not so fast with that sombrero: the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has a new Halloween costume threat assessment meter, and donning one of the popular Mexican wide-brimmed caps the night of Oct. 31 is certain to trigger a code red backlash.
First reported by a Massachusetts-based college and university correspondent via CampusReform.org, the “Simple Costume Racism Evaluation and Assessment Meter” (SCREAM) will be implemented to help students determine the degree of offensiveness generated by their chosen Halloween garb.
Color-coded with features heavily reminiscent of defense readiness condition (DEFCON) alerts, the SCREAM flow-chart indicates that those choosing to dress up as a member of his or her own race emit a low or “probably won’t offend” threat, designated by a shade of forest green:
— Evan Lips (@evanmlips) October 20, 2016
Those planning to dress up as a member of a different race evoke another color entirely — for example, a white student dressing up as a member of a race “more socially marginalized than you” is likely to register a high or “severe” threat designation.
The posters have been installed at all university residence halls. According to Campus Reform, “the initiative is being spearheaded by the Center for Women and Community, the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success, and the campus’ diversity office, the Stonewall Center.”
The Campus Reform report noted that correspondent Tyler Palermo “reached out to the university for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.”
Earlier this school year, UMass-Amherst made headlines when a team of residential advisors emailed underclassmen warning them against making jokes about the fallen gorilla Harambe. University spokesman Ed Blaguszewski later clarified that the email was not officially sanctioned by the school, and that “as an institution that values free speech and exchange of ideas, UMass-Amherst has not taken any steps to ban jokes or references about Harambe the gorilla.”
Early Friday morning, Blaguszewski issued a comment to the New Boston Post regarding the Halloween costume flow-chart, stressing that the initiative was again student-driven and not sponsored by the university:
“As part of the university’s continuing efforts to foster an inclusive and supportive living environment for all students, resident assistants at UMass Amherst this month created bulletin boards communicating those values and explaining how some Halloween costumes may be offensive to others. The guidelines used to create the bulletin boards are intended to educate students about cultural appropriation and help them make informed choices about costumes. UMass Amherst does not prohibit or ban any costumes.
“In one residence hall, a ‘threat level flow chart’ for choosing a Halloween costume was posted on a bulletin board. It is not part of the recommended educational materials that RAs were advised to display, but rather was downloaded from the Internet and was posted by a well-intentioned student staff member. The chart has been removed from the bulletin board.”