Choose respect this Halloween

In the past couple of years, a handful of colleges across the country have made news this time of year. The coverage was not about academic achievement, breakthrough research or a football win.

Rather, these schools were thrust into the national spotlight for choices a few students made regarding Halloween costumes. For instance, choosing to attend a party in blackface, in mock KKK garb or in a stereotypical rendering of “geisha,” “Indian warrior” or “hillbilly.”

While this type of news harms schools, it can have an even greater impact on students. In our age of social media, photos can exist online for years — much longer than the 24-hour news cycle.

The good news is that these unfortunate incidents have sparked meaningful conversations around diversity, inclusion and respect. In 2011, students at Ohio University created the “We’re a Culture Not a Costume” poster campaign. Last year, Boston College undergrads followed suit with the “Dress with Respect” campaign.

Halloween is just one small but meaningful moment when acting with respect and acceptance benefits everyone. More important than whether or how we choose to celebrate Oct. 31 are the values that shape our everyday lives. Our collective choices have the power to create a university that inspires others to respect us, invest in us and partner with us.

Let’s learn from the choices of others. Halloween is a good first step. Have fun, while also respecting fellow students and colleagues.