Deans, students work on anti-cultural appropriation video

October 21, 2015 by Neena Patel, Staff Writer

This October, Dean of the College Sarah Bolton and student leaders are collaborating on a project to educate first-year students about the potential implications of cultural appropriation through Halloween costumes.

The student team consists of the co-presidents of the Junior Advisor Advisory Board (Jackie Lane ’16 and Justin Jones ’16), Teddy Cohan ’16, Joe Bianco ’16, Bushra Ali ’17, Penny Sun ’16 and Michael Polson ’17. They have been working alongside Dean Bolton to oversee both the logistical and creative process.

“We wanted to get some information out to first-year students about costumes in advance of Halloween – to help make clear the ways that costumes that are reductive or disrespectful can be harmful,” Bolton said.

They have been working on the video for about two weeks. Students who were interested in voicing their opinions on the topic were invited by Bolton to participate in the project, which was filmed on Oct. 13.  The film is being edited this week.

“The goal is to raise awareness and prevent harm,” Bolton said.

The collaborators of this project acknowledge that students have had varying degrees of exposure to issues of cultural appropriation.

“We think it’s important to talk about cultural appropriation because we want to raise awareness about what it is and how it can negatively affect members of our community,” said Jones.

In a decision mostly driven by students, the group decided that a video was the best way to communicate the information. There will be a screening of the video, edited by Walford Campbell ’17, in each entry, followed by a discussion moderated by Junior Advisors. The video focuses mostly on the damaging implications of costumes that, while seemingly harmless, can be offensive to certain students.

“We thought that a video could be easily disseminated to the wider campus through social media after it has been shown to first-years,” said Lane.

Posters will also be placed around campus after the video has been shown in order to raise awareness among the entire student body.

“While the goal of the video is to raise awareness about this issue particularly as it relates to Halloween, we also hope to begin a larger campus conversation on cultural appropriation,” said Jones. The team hopes that this video will be a step in the right direction.

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