Spooky, Scary

The University of Florida is offering 24/7 counseling to people hurt by racist Halloween costumes

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It’s October, which means Halloween, with its inevitable flurry of offensive, inappropriate, and overtly racist costumes, is almost upon us. You know the kind: Sombreros and mustaches intended to transform your basic frat bro into a stereotypical “Mexican”, ensembles that mock and demean trans women, or, in some cases, just straight up blackface.

Officials at the University of Florida have decided to get ahead of any potential issues that may arise from the “are you kidding me?” costume choices that often permeate college campuses. The school is not only imploring students to refrain from wearing inappropriate outfits—it’s also offering round-the-clock mental health counseling for anyone offended by their classmates’ costumes.

“As a community, we aspire to demonstrate integrity, respect, and compassion that strives to maintain an affirming campus climate for all members of our community,” UF administrators wrote in a message posted to the campus website this week. “If you are troubled by an incident that does occur, please know that there are many resources available.”

The note goes on to direct students to the school’s U Matter, We Care resource center, as well as “a 24/7 counselor in the Counseling and Wellness Center,” who is “available to speak by phone.” The school also recommends contacting their “Bias Education and Response Team” who are 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.”

Speaking with Heat Street, UF spokesperson Janine Sikes expanded on the possible responses the school might take if an offensive incident is reported:

“Depending on the circumstances, we might reach out to the person who was listed as wearing the costume and see what support or resources they might need as well,” she said. “No one is required to talk to BERT. If the individuals involved desire further conversations with us or each other, we would help facilitate this.”

Schools around the country find themselves increasingly grappling with how potentially offensive behavior or conversation is affecting the student body. The University of Wisconsin, for example, has begun offering a new “cultural competency” course for incoming freshmen this year.

While it remains to be seen how much the UF student body will actually take advantage of the resources being offered this year, Heat Street points out the school has been the site of several racist Halloween costume controversies in the past.

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