A policy buried in the Furman University handbook claims that students can be punished for wearing offensive Halloween costumes.
According to an analysis by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Furman University is restricting the speech rights of students by threatening to punish them for wearing Halloween costumes deemed “offensive.”
“An act of intolerance is defined as any conduct that serves no scholarly purpose appropriate to the educational experience and demonstrates bias against others because of, but not limited to, their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, religion, veteran status or any other characteristic or status protected by applicable local, state, or federal law,” the handbook reads.
Under the “Acts of Intolerance” header in the student handbook, the university lists various types of behavior that would be considered “intolerance.” The university claims that they will launch an investigation into “theme parties that encourage people to wear costumes or act in ways that reinforce stereotypes.”
Laura Beltz, an attorney and contributor to FIRE’s blog, argued that Furman needs to make it clear that they will not punish students for simply expressing themselves on Halloween.
“Instead, Furman should target conduct that effectively denies a person their education, like hostile environment harassment,” Beltz wrote. “As for expression that is protected under First Amendment standards, Furman should feel free to speak out against what it sees as biased expression and to offer students support when they have felt targeted by such expression. But it should also make clear that it will not investigate or punish students over subjectively demeaning behavior — or costumes — alone.”
In May 2016, leftist student activists at Yale University infamously yelled at Professor Nicholas Christakis over his decision to defend an open letter that criticized Yale’s decision to play an active role in policing Halloween costumes.
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