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U of U students campaign against offensive costumes

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Posted at 7:13 PM, Oct 31, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-31 21:13:28-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A group of students at the University of Utah are taking a stand against offensive or racist Halloween costumes with a campus campaign.

For the second straight year, the Diversity Board of Students at the University of Utah launched its Dress-up or Mess-up campaign.

Joel Lehi Organista is the associate director of the Diversity Board with the Associated Students of the University of Utah, and he said they are working to raise awareness.

“That’s the main purpose—to get people to discuss it, to kind of think about it before they dress up,” Organista said.

Members put up posters showing students holding a picture of someone dressed in a costume that offends a culture or religion. The pictures read: “We are not okay with this.”

“There are thousands of costumes you can go with, why pick that one when you know it's going cause tension within the community?” Student Alec Vanhuele said.

One poster shows a man dressed as a Middle-Eastern terrorist. Another shows a woman dressed as a plus-sized hula dancer. Creators emphasize they aren't drawing a line between what’s acceptable and what’s offensive, that's for you to decide.

“We're not trying to say this is bad or this is good, it’s in a really gray area,” Organista said.

The diversity board said their main goal is to make the campus a more safe and inclusive space for all students and faculty.  Now, whether or not the posters achieve that is a matter of opinion, but they certainly have started a dialogue here on campus.

“Definitely just gives you a new perspective,” Student Khadija Mohammed said. “I never really was aware of it. I just saw it as a fun holiday where you can do what you want or be who you want to be.”

“They think it`s funny but not to other people,” Student Michael Daniel said.

Vanhuele said people should be more sensitive.

“I think saying my right to play this character is so much more important than being respectful of a group of people is ridiculous,” he said.

This is the second year of the campaign. Last year, they got a lot of  positive and negative feedback on the posters, and they said that's the whole point: to start a dialogue on the issue.