University BANS 'acts of intolerance'

Furman University has an “Acts of Intolerance” policy, which could punish “theme parties” and “costumes” that “reinforce stereotypes.”

A free speech advocate said that the policy could stifle speech on campus.

With Halloween approaching, college students may be thinking about what type of party they should host or what costume they should pick. 

However, at Furman University, students might be restricted in their plans.

Free speech nonprofit the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) highlighted Furman’s “Acts of Intolerance” policy for its October speech code of the month.

The policy states that “an act of intolerance” can be defined “as any conduct that serves no scholarly purpose appropriate to the educational experience and demonstrates bias against others,” based on their sex, national origin, age, etc.

Under the policy, certain costumes and theme parties can “prompt additional investigation” and are discouraged by the school.

“Theme parties that encourage people to wear costumes or act in ways that reinforce stereotypes or are otherwise demeaning,” the policy lists as one item that can lead to “additional investigation.”

[RELATED: Gonzaga warns against ‘potentially harmful’ ‘cultural appropriation’]

Additionally, “culturally offensive gestures,” vandalism, and the use of slurs can all be considered “Acts of Intolerance.” 

“When an Act of Intolerance is targeted toward a specific person, it may rise to the level of discriminatory harassment. It may also constitute a hate crime for the purposes of local, state, or federal law,” the policy states.

The same student policy handbook that has the “Act of Intolerance” policy also guarantees the freedom of expression.

“Students are guaranteed freedom of inquiry and expression,” the handbook reads.

Laura Beltz, senior program officer for FIRE, told Campus Reform that the policy could stifle speech on campus.

“If you’re a student and you’re reading this policy and you see that you could be investigated or even punished over expression like this,” Beltz said. “[Students] may self-censor because [they’re] so concerned that any sort of subjectively controvers[ial] or offensive expression could be investigated. [You’re] going to be a lot less likely to engage in conduct that could go up to that line. So, it’s a problem really either way whether they’re investigating the surface expression or not and that’s why they need to revise this policy to make it clear.”

Beltz also said that since Furman does promise to its students that it will respect freedom of expression, “they should be living up to that promise.”

Similarly, in 2018 at Gonzaga University, students received a campus-wide email warning them about being “culturally inappropriate” in their costumes, as reported by Campus Reform.

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Utah admin calls cultural appropriation ‘the baby of racism and capitalism’]

“Halloween has also become known for more dangerous and damaging traditions like binge drinking, sexualized or culturally inappropriate costumes, and vandalism,” the administrator and student body president wrote to students. “We urge our community to be aware of the potentially harmful impact insensitive behavior can have on fellow students, other members of the Gonzaga community, and our Logan neighbors.”

[RELATED: Princeton student gov issues checklist for ‘inclusive’ Halloween]

During an event, a University of Utah administrator even called cultural appropriation “the baby of racism and capitalism,” as reported by Campus Reform.

Campus Reform reached out to Furman University but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @asabes10