Universities have the rare opportunity to teach as much by example as they do via formal lesson plan. If the University of East Anglia in Norfolk, England, taught anything by its recent campus-wide fiat it was to suffer fools. Not only did administrators ban students from accepting free sombreros, handed out as a proportiona by a local Tex-Mex restaurant; it confiscated the hats from students who dared to wear them on campus.
The Mirror reports:
[S]tudent union officials … took the big floppy hats from students at the Freshers’ Fair, because non-Mexicans wearing the traditional item of headwear could be seen as offensive, according to a new initiative.
Students whose hats were taken from them probably have grounds for a class action suit against the university since in England, as here, possession is nine-tenths of the law.
As for the initiative, the article goes on to explain that it prohibits fifteen types of discrimination on the basis of color, ethnicity, and nationality. With regard to stereotypical imagery in advertising, it reads:
Discriminatory or stereotypical language or imagery aimed towards to any group or individual based on characteristics will not be permitted as part of our advertising.
The university itself appears to be aware of how over-the-top this ruling seems. UAE’s campaigns and democracy officer, Chris Jarvis, is quoted as saying:
We know that when it comes to cultural appropriation[!] the issues can sometimes be difficult to understand and many don’t realise that they may be about to cause offence or break a policy.
He then adds:
[W]e want all members feel safe and accepted, so at all events we try to ensure that there is no behaviour, language or imagery which could be considered racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or ableist.
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