If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that it’s never too early or late to get outraged about a Halloween costume. I don’t care if it’s June or January, there’s nothing as pernicious as a white college kid wearing a sombrero or something to that effect. If we don’t Twitter-shame them until their life is ruined, then the white nationalists have already won.
A student from West Virginia University found this out the hard way last Tuesday. As he was studying for finals, the Daily Wire reported, he received a letter from the dean concerning a Border Patrol Halloween getup.
A letter from “Assistant Dean LiDell Evans informed Joseph Cortese, a fourth-year student, that he was required to attend a meeting on Friday concerning an investigation about a photo he posted on Instagram of himself dressed as a Border Patrol agent for Halloween,” the Daily Wire’s Kassy Dillon wrote.
“This letter serves to put you on notice that pursuant to section 9.2 of the Student Conduct Code and Discipline Procedure for the Main Campus of West Virginia University, you are the subject of an investigation regarding alleged prohibited conduct,” the letter read.
The investigation was over a photo he posted to his Instagram account before Halloween showing him as a Border Patrol agent handcuffing another individual with a piece of paper with the word “Illegal” written on it.
The letter said that if he didn’t show up to the meeting or contact the office, he would have a hold placed on his account.
“I received this email Wednesday and have had awful anxiety since,” Cortese said. “While I was trying to study for finals, this was looming on the back of my mind.”
“I know I didn’t do as well on my finals as I should have due to this,” he added.
Given that the complaint was received on Nov. 6, it’s curious that they would contact him during finals week. It’s also curious that this should be an issue at all; Cortese said that during the meeting, Assistant Dean Evans said he had the “constitutional right” to wear the costume, even if it could be “misinterpreted the wrong way.”
The female student who dressed as the illegal immigrant has not been brought in for investigation. As a matter of speculation, this might have something to do with the fact that Cortese is the communications director for Students for Trump.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which defends civil liberties on campus, said they are “aware of this case and looking into it.”
“Public universities enter treacherous terrain when they investigate expression protected by the First Amendment,” they noted.
As for the university, it seems that they’ve more or less closed the case on the allegations.
“The West Virginia University Office of Student Conduct received a complaint claiming the student was posting ‘vulgar hateful Instagrams’ but did not single out what was ‘vulgar’ or ‘hateful’ about them,” the school said in a statement.
“The Office followed standard procedure, including the timing, to follow up on the complaint and talk with the student. The Office tries to wrap up any matters before students leave campus at the end of each semester. No charges or disciplinary action was (sic) taken and the matter is now closed.”
This still leaves plenty of questions unanswered. Why did they decide to pursue it during finals week when the complaint was over a month old? If they didn’t have the details regarding the “vulgar hateful Instagrams,” why did they decide to pursue the matter at all? And if they did have the details, why wouldn’t “standard procedure” involve summarily dismissing any complaint that clearly involved speech protected by the First Amendment?
As for outrage over Halloween costumes, let’s again please settle down. I understand that the Border Patrol evokes some strong emotions in individuals who believe enforcing the law is inherently racist. However, one has to wonder what’s next when you consider what costumes seem to outrage people nowadays.
Snow White? Well, you’re just normalizing the fact that the Prince kissed her without her permission. Tony Soprano? You’re engaging in Italian stereotyping and fat shaming. Any white character? Your white privilege is showing. Any minority character? You’re a racist. A pancake? Hello — gluten intolerance?
In short, the only acceptable Halloween costume going forward is a stick of celery. Please take note of this for future reference, and do also note that adding a dollop of ranch dressing is engaging in farmer appropriation. Your compliance is greatly appreciated.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.