Canada is quicking joining the U.S. in its frenzy to turn colleges into Nanny States. The subject, as ever this time of year, is party costumes, rapidly become a political flashpoint, and a great excuse for Regressive Lefists to call people “racists”.
What happened last Saturday in Kingston, Ontario, as reported by the CBC, is that students held a costume party off campus. The theme was “countries,” and students dressed as Buddhist monks, Mexicans (with sombreros or as Mexican wrestlers), Turks (with fezzes), and people from other countries. Here are some of the costumes (the CBC gets some of it wrong: the fezzes don’t adorn “Middle Eastern sheiks” and the face coverings are not “Mexican prisoners”):
Buddhis monks, with stocks meant to represent bald heads:
Turks and gypsies?
Daniel Woolf, Principle and Vice-Chancellor of Queens, then issued two statements on the University’s website, threatening sanctions against these students. Here’s an excerpt:
As the principal of Queen’s, I am upset and disappointed by this incident and want to learn more about it so that the university can take appropriate measures to address concerns that have arisen, including my own.
As I stated yesterday, any event that degrades, mocks, or marginalizes a group or groups of people is completely unacceptable at Queen’s.
That is why I have asked the provost to gather as much information as possible, and, based on what he learns, determine if this event falls within the scope of Queen’s Student Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is applicable to students’ off-campus conduct in certain circumstances.
Others objected as well:
[Toronto comedian Celeste Yim] called the event “shockingly racist.”
“The costumes are indisputably and unequivocally offensive, tasteless, and should not be tolerated. Context and intentions have no bearing,” Yim wrote.
Most of the students at Queen’s University who spoke to CBC News on Wednesday said the images from the party were inappropriate.
“It’s definitely a joke in poor taste. And it’s not right in present society,” said Sutheeksan Sunthoran. “I think we can do better. We should do better — not just as members of Queen’s, but as Canadians, generally.”
Hisham Imtiaz called the party costumes “extremely inappropriate.”
“It doesn’t represent the university as a whole, but it definitely represents a small part of the uneducated group who just says it’s all in good fun — when it really isn’t.”
John Siferd said he believed issues around cultural insensitivity exist on other Canadian universities as well, and that it would be a mistake to view the weekend’s party near Queen’s as a special case.
“Other campuses probably have similar issues relating to race on their campuses. And they should be addressed.”
Well, judge for yourself, and remember that it was a costume party meant to represent “countries”. If the USA were represented, what would the costume be? Probably a Hawaiian shirt and plaid Bermuda shorts, maybe with an American flag in the hand. How about Canadians? Probably a flannel shirt with moose antlers on the head, and a Molson’s—or a Mountie costume. Are these costumes representative of bigotry and racism, or the students’ attempts to look like members of different nationalities? Do they show racism and bigotry? What about the Mexican wrestler masks? You be the judge.
What isn’t ambiguous, I think, is the University’s threats to discipline students for what they do off campus. Even if you think some of the costumes were tasteless (and I probably wouldn’t have worn many of these), one should have the freedom to show poor taste without being disciplined by one’s university for an off campus party. The costumes are simply an expression of free speech, and Queens, while it may have the right to condemn those costumes, has no right to threaten or punish their wearers.
I doubt that these students are racists; if anything, they’re probably just naive and clueless. So boo to Queens for investigating this incident. Yes, perhaps there can be a dialogue about this incident, but the dialogue should not consist of the Perpetually Offended demanding that others agree with them. That’s a monologue.
Here’s what the Advice Goddess Amy Alkon said:
I become more and more convinced: College is now nursery school with beer.
If you, back when I went to University of Michigan in 80s, told me that college students would be “investigated” for going to costumes dressed up in “bad taste,” I think I would have just stood there and gaped at you.
Isn’t that the point? Costume party…dressing up in bad taste?