Students reject regulation of party costumes

A wide range of costumes were on show at this year’s Hyde St keg party in March. Those who...
A wide range of costumes were on show at this year’s Hyde St keg party in March. Those who attended were advised not to dress in offensive garb. Photos: ODT.
Dressing up in blackface or as a Nazi will not be out of bounds at next year’s Hyde St keg party after University of Otago students voted against costumes being regulated.

In a binding referendum, students overwhelmingly voted against the Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) regulating what costumes could be worn to the party,  by a majority of 61.67% versus 33.29% who voted for the regulations, after a set of guidelines introduced this year prompted a backlash.

The list of costumes to avoid released by OUSA this year included "blackface darkening", racial or cultural stereotypes, mocking culturally sensitive events — such as by dressing as a Nazi — mocking disabled people, mocking LGBT people and glorifying sexual violence, for instance by dressing as Chris Brown or Bill Cosby.

OUSA administrative vice-president Jarred Griffiths said the result meant it would not be issuing any regulations on what people should wear at future events.

"Obviously, some students had very strong views about [the issue] and submitted questions during the referendum process," Mr Griffiths said.

He accepted it would be a bad look if a lot of students dressed in offensive costumes at next year’s keg party.

However, he felt that most people who voted against the regulations were concerned about  freedoms being curtailed rather than actually wanting to dress in offensive costumes.

He did not believe there would be an explosion in numbers of people wearing offensive garb at next year’s keg party.

"So whether or not guidelines or regulations are necessary I think is quite moot, because students are relatively sensible anyway."

Mr Griffiths said many people were under the mistaken impression offensive costumes were banned at this year’s party, when in fact OUSA just released guidelines after being approached by a feminist group.

Groups who were concerned about what costumes people wore were still welcome to raise awareness through their own efforts, but OUSA would not be involved.

In other referendum results, students overwhelmingly voted for the OUSA to lobby the Dunedin City Council to introduce larger glass recycling bins (85.18%).

A vote in favour of OUSA providing a spa pool or communal bathing house was not binding because it was a financial matter, and Mr Griffiths said it was unlikely to build one.

"We are obviously cautious to spend every student dollar as wisely as we can and we probably don’t think that’s one of our priorities at the moment."

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