Students earned $11/hour to complain about Halloween costumes

Toni Airaksinen
New York Campus Correspondent

  • Washington State University hired four students last year to host workshops promoting social justice issues on campus, paying them $11/hour for roughly 10 hours of work per week.
  • After a full semester, however, the students only appear to have hosted a single event: a workshop warning against "cultural appropriation" in Halloween costumes.
  • Washington State University pays “Peer Educators” $11/hour to host social justice workshops, but so far Halloween costumes seem to be the only target.

    These Social Justice Peer Educators (SJPEs) were slated to work roughly ten hours per week facilitating workshops on social justice topics such as “Redefining Masculinity” and “Microaggressions 101,” according to the initial job description.

    WSU is the third taxpayer-funded university known to offer to pay students to proselytize for social justice, following in the steps of the University of Arizona (UA) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which both offered to hire “Social Justice Advocates” last year.

    [RELATED: UCLA paying students to fight ‘whiteness,’ ‘patriarchy’]

    But while both UA and UCLA closed their Social Justice Advocates programs not long after Campus Reform broke news of them, WSU went full-steam ahead, hiring four students to work in the school’s Diversity Education office.

    Despite each student “working” roughly 10 hours per week, Campus Reform has discovered that the peer educators only appear to have successfully pulled off one workshop last semester—an event dedicated to fighting “cultural appropriation” in Halloween costumes.

    Hosted two weeks before the holiday, the SJPEs facilitated the “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” workshop before a small audience, warning their peers of the harms that could arise if their Halloween costumes aren’t culturally sensitive enough.

    “Spread the word, help educate others,” said SJPE Nicklaus McHendry, emphasizing the importance of education in combating offensive comments, reports The Daily Evergreen.

    Another SJPE, Jayda Moore, encouraged peers not to engage in “cultural appropriation,” which she defined as taking aspects of other cultures out of context.

    Cultural appropriation is “usually done by the dominant members group,” Moore explained, adding that the process works against people from a “marginalized or oppressed group.”

    [RELATED: UMass creates cultural appropriation ‘threat meter’ for Halloween]

    While the peer educators were initially hired to facilitate a variety of workshops, the costume workshop appears to be the only event they have successfully put on thus far.

    Campus Reform reached out to the students to clarify if they accomplished anything else last semester, but they all either declined to clarify or neglected to respond. Spokespersons for WSU did not respond to a request for comment on the matter, either.

    Going forward, it is unclear what the SJPEs are being paid to do this semester. The program website indicates that the SJPEs are now available to facilitate workshops on issues including “Challenging Microaggressions” and “Building Inclusive Language,” but does not indicate whether anyone has actually requested those workshops.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airakisnen

    Toni Airaksinen

    Toni Airaksinen

    New York Campus Correspondent
    Toni Airaksinen is a New York Campus Correspondent, where she reports on free speech issues and social justice research. She is a senior at Barnard College, majoring in Urban Studies and Environmental Science. She is also a columnist for PJ Media, and formerly held a post with USA TODAY College, The Columbia Spectator, and Quillette.
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