- - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Wearing traditional Mexican garb for Taco Tuesday earned a near death penalty for a sorority at California State University, Fullerton. It was “grotesquely inappropriate,” the dean of students decreed. Nothing said at the event offended the school’s draconian speech code, so the policy was expanded to cover clothing.

That is a bad omen for Halloween. How might CSUF punish insensitivity to witches, homeless hobos, pirates, fairies, animals and, of course, Arabs? How about Mexicans, American Indians or other groups? Is political correctness the death knell for Halloween costumes?

Yet the Zeta Alpha chapter of Alpha Delta Pi got hit with sanctions: limits on new members, mandatory sensitivity training and a decree that the sorority must create a campuswide awareness campaign.

But the sorority sisters seem to reflect their community more than the PC police who run the university.

Dozens of restaurants in Fullerton, California, advertise Taco Tuesday specials.

One on-campus group is CSUF Ballet Folklorico, which emulates the renowned Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. Student performers are predominantly Hispanic, just like the school’s population. Members perform in Mexican attire that includes sombreros and serapes, and women wear long, vibrant skirts. The men wear headscarves that might be mistaken for gang scarves.

Mexico’s original Ballet Folklorico also uses peasant costumes and enormous papier-mache heads that depict racial stereotypes of Mexico’s culture. Might they therefore be banned from performing on campus?

The university’s letter to the sorority makes no complaints about what members said or did at their rush event. It condemns only their costumes for being “culturally insensitive.” The event was not promoted as a costume party, the university said, but more than 90 percent of the members wore special attire.

So what did the sorority sisters do wrong by simply wearing costumes at Taco Tuesday? Nothing.

Obviously, somebody took offense and complained — perhaps because the sorority is mostly white, according to online photos of the chapter. In contrast, photos show CSUF’s Ballet Folklorico to be mostly Hispanic. Both groups have official policies of openness to race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation and disability.

Nothing is unusual about the makeup of either group. Studies show that race-neutral admissions don’t change the cultural comfort levels of students. Admissions are not truly race-neutral in many places, of course. They can include discrimination or reverse discrimination.

Cal State-Fullerton reported that its 33,000 undergraduate students in 2013 were 35 percent Hispanic, 27 percent white, 21 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 2 percent black.

Now the campus will be covered by a program that is a favorite of the politically correct. Its slogan is “I’m a culture, not a costume.”

Ohio University created the program, using a repertoire of posters within posters. The offended person, adopting a mournful frown, holds a poster of a native costume or other stereotype of their ethnicity. They include Hispanics frowning at peasant attire, Arabs saddened by photos of sheiks, black women upset at photos of partying, Asians upset by posters of people in coolie hats.

Web parodies of the program have proliferated. The memes include George Washington not wanting to be illustrated in Colonial clothes, pro wrestlers unhappy with their own feather boa outfits, circus clowns objecting to red noses, even Bill Murray upset at being typecast for his role in “Ghostbusters.”

With its costume controversy, you might think that Cal State-Fullerton would cancel Halloween. But there’s no sign of that so far. Instead, websites show a range of haunted houses, flash mobs, fun runs and other events linked to the holiday.

But the students had best dress with care. Big Brother will be watching, but with a twist. The dean of students who whacked that sorority is a woman. So beware of Big Sister as well; it’s probably not wise to dress like her when you go out trick-or-treating.

Ernest Istook is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Get his free email newsletter by signing up at eepurl.com/JPojD.

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