Kent Union has come under fire from students and academics for its ‘fancy-dress guidelines’, which include banning students from wearing sombreros or dressing like members of the Conservative Party.
The draft guidelines serve to respond to recent “complaints” made by Union members over some student groups’ choice of fancy dress during social events on campus and in locations such as The Venue.
The guidelines state: “We empower students to be creative, whilst also ensuring all students feel welcome and safe.
“Students groups are free to engage in fancy dress whilst ensuring they abide by the Fancy Dress Guidelines which include being offensive, discriminatory and prejudice to an individual’s race, gender, disability or sexual orientation or based on stereotypes.
“Fancy Dress themes should also not be centred around political group stereotypes or the stereotypes of different levels of perceived class in the means to diminish their worth or validity.
“This again would promote an unsafe and exclusive campus to which we do not tolerate.”
Among the banned costumes include celebrities known for their sexual misconduct or abuse of power, like disgraced DJ Jimmy Saville or historical/religious figures such as the Crusades and Nazis.
Other costumes cited by the Union include; priests and nuns, cowboys and Native Americans, ISIS bombers, Israeli soldiers and The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him); and political stereotypes, including ‘chavs’ and Harry Enfield’s ‘Tory Boy’ character.
The Union have branded these costumes to be “offensive” and discouraging to students wishing for the “right to a safe space at our university”.
Students have also been warned by the Union against dressing up as a gender they do not identify with “if the purpose is to belittle”.
At the time of writing, over 92 per cent of Kent Online readers believe that the fancy dress guidelines go “too far”.
Contrarily, the Union has said that it is acceptable to dress like doctors or professionals, certain cartoon characters, letters of the alphabet, cave people, Ancient Greeks, Romans, the United Nations, Medieval villagers and aliens.
Union members originally drafted these guidelines “as a discussion point with some of our groups and as part of a proactive approach to ensure that student events remain inclusive”.
Last year, the UKC UKIP society were ordered with disciplinary measures and threats of being dissolved from Kent Union, after promoting a pub social event celebrating the First Crusades.
The bill has already garnered criticism from both students and academics alike.
Joanna Williams, Head of Education and Culture Policy Exchange and Associate Editor at Spiked Online, Tweeted: “Halloween at university…. always a minefield when young adults decide for themselves how to dress. Never fear! Kent students’ union bans sombreros and dressing like Tories from fancy dress parties.”
Jak Allen, a PhD candidate in History, said: “It’s a shame students are so disinterested in their student union votes. If Kent students were active and scrutinised their candidates, I’m sure they wouldn’t vote for such moronic people.”
Former student Alex Tiley stated how Kent Union “were always a complete joke when I was at Kent and I see that [they’re] still on form as ever in your sycophantic role as the impotent, inclusivity w**k, fun police”.
In a statement received by InQuire, Kent Union wrote: “The fancy dress policy in discussion is currently a draft proposal and we will be consulting with our executive groups to gain further feedback.
“We of course want students to enjoy themselves and often host fancy dress parties in our own nightclub, but we would ask students to be mindful of their choices and whether any offence could be caused.”
The Union also responded to national newspapers in a blog post uploaded onto their website. They state: “We are being proactive in looking out for all students whilst empowering them to have a great time at Kent and this is the narrative which is seemingly being missed in the headlines.
“We are aware that students generally have an understanding of these issues, and most fancy dress events are not problematic, but we believe it is important to raise awareness of potentially problematic themes and work with our student groups to ensure successful student run events.”