Oregon Student Government: Dressing Up as Any Character Is Cultural Appropriation, Not Okay

War on Halloween


Patricia Marroquin / Dreamstime

The student-governments of rival schools Oregon State University and the University of Oregon have announced a temporary partnership, which is kind of like how it would be if Negan from The Walking Dead could somehow join forces with Ramsay Bolton.

And why are these villains teaming up? (UO and OSU, not Negan and Ramsay.) You can probably guess: they want to play Halloween costume police.

In a strongly worded email to students at both campuses, student-government presidents Rachel Grisham and Quinn Haaga warned their communities that acts of cultural appropriation "are not acceptable." Full stop.


Cultural appropriation is the act of borrowing or using aspects of a culture by another culture, typically a dominant culture. Around the time of Halloween, we often see people dressing as a culture or a character, which is offensive and reinforces negative stereotypes. These costumes reinforce racism, sexism, and classism. As active and respectful members of the OSU and the UO communities, we expect everyone to not engage in cultural appropriation.

Or what? is a tempting response. Unfortunately, we know exactly what will happen to transgressors. The University of Oregon, for example, harbors one of the most dangerous bias response teams I've written about. Students who push the line, as far as costumes are concerned, can expect to be investigated.

The idea that students should avoid particular costumes because they happen to involve other cultures is absurd, and this email unintentionally points out exactly why. Note that its authors have inadvertently outlawed practically all Halloween costumes in their zeal to punish cultural appropriation, which isn't even a bad thing that should be discouraged in the first place.

Can I dress up as Ramsay? He's a character, after all, and I wouldn't want to appropriate Westerosi culture.