A University “Bias Incident Team” took a carving knife to three students’ “three blind mice” Halloween costumes last fall, saying the costumes mocked the disabled.
The incident took place at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, according to records reviewed exclusively by Heat Street. The offending students had posted pictures of themselves in costume on Facebook.
The documents,which Heat Street obtained under open records laws, reveal that a member of the Bias Incident Team reported the students herself: “There was concern about their choice as it makes fun of a disability,” says the team’s meeting minutes.
The Bias Incident Team decided to follow up directly with the costume wearers, noting that “this incident is being considered a personnel issue in Residence Life” because the students were also staffers.
Photos of the mouse costumes were also removed from Facebook, though it’s unclear whether the Bias Incident Team compelled students to take them down. (The photo accompanying this article shows different people wearing the same type of costume.) The meeting minutes don’t reveal the identity of the students who donned the “three blind mice” costumes. Universities typically do not disclose the identities of students involved in such controversies, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Heat Street has been able to reach the students for comment.
Apparently the mouse costumes were a cautionary tale for the Bias Incident Team. During at least two different Bias Incident Team meetings, administrators discussed the need to “be pro-active next year before Halloween about choosing an appropriate Halloween costume,” also suggesting that “we may do an ‘inappropriate costumes’ de-briefing such as a news media article or overview.”
By deadline, members of the Bias Incident Team had not responded to inquiries about whether any disabled students reported being offended by the Three Blind Mice costumes or whether UW-Platteville had established guidelines about what constitutes an appropriate costume.
Halloween has become an increasingly tense time on college campuses across the United States.
A Yale lecturer and her professor husband resigned in December after coming under fire for questioning whether the university was taking Halloween costumes a bit too seriously. “I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious, a little bit inappropriate or provocative, or, yes, offensive?” the lecturer wrote, prompting immediate uproar from aggrieved students.
The University of Washington produced a six-minute video last year decrying “cultural appropriation” around Halloween. Off-limits costumes included hula skirts, straightjackets, sombreros, fake mustaches and martial-arts attire.
Several other universities have issued similar guidelines or advertisements instructing students about what costumes may be deemed offensive.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.