Diversity Lived is Diversity Learned
With a two-year live-on campus requirement for all incoming students, we recognize that our residence halls play an essential role in helping to shape and advance the DU community. We work hard to foster an environment that encourages intellectual and social development beyond the classroom and promotes the best kind of learning experience: that which we gain from each other. As such, our department has a staff that is committed to upholding the values expressed in our Diversity Vision Statement and creating a culture that respects those ideals.
Diversity Value Statement
The University of Denver Department of Housing & Residential Education believes that diversity is a core value of our residential communities. As such, we, the students and staff of Housing & Residential Education are committed to pursuing inclusive excellence and social justice through programming, dialogue, and actively embracing our individual and unique identities and differences as well as our commonalities. We support a pluralistic living environment in our residence halls that respects all voices and maintains human dignity through intellectual, social, and emotional growth. We seek to foster the development of engaged global citizens through mutual understanding of race and ethnicity, religions, socio-economic classes, gender identity expressions, sexual orientation, physical and learning abilities, national origins, veteran status, and ages. In this way, Housing & Residential Education respects promotes, and advocates diversity, because we believe diversity lived is diversity learned.
Diversity Development Team - Advancing Inclusive Excellence
In keeping with the Department of Housing and Residential Education's belief in the value of diversity, the department has a dedicated Diversity Development Team. It is the mission of the Diversity Development Team to advance the ideals of social justice and inclusive excellence as primary goals in all aspects of the Department of Housing and Residential Education's activities and policies.
We sincerely believe that diversity lived is diversity learned. As such, the Team takes focused, intentional, and well-informed actions with the objective of creating inclusive learning environments that promote individual and social development in our department, the residence halls, and the DU community at large. Since our founding, the Team has successfully integrated many aspects of the Diversity Statement into our communities. We strive to provide our students with a staff and support system that respects diversity, social justice, and individual development through learning and understanding. To that end, our team has
- Created the Diversity Statement for the department
- Established liaisons to each of our buildings
- Became a part of the interview process for hiring staff members
- Created mandatory quarterly training sessions for all staff members
- Enhanced requirements and resources so that RAs are able to create better social justice-oriented programs
Contact email@example.com if you are interested in joining us in the important work we are doing.
We're a Culture, Not a Costume
The University of Denver’s Housing and Residential Education department has launched a photo campaign to help end culturally appropriative (Halloween) costumes. The, "We're a Culture, Not a Costume” addresses the problematic practice of cultural appropriation surrounding Halloween costumes, practices, and celebrations. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness and to create a better sense of belonging and how to have a respectful and inclusive community for all students at DU.
Because HRE is committed to pursuing inclusive excellence and social justice through programming and dialogue, our department created the "We're a Culture Not A Costume" campaign in an effort to raise awareness about cultural appropriation during the Halloween season. Through passive and active programming, HRE aims to educate the DU community about why cultural appropriation is problematic, why it should not be ignored, and how to be better advocates and allies. We know Cultural appropriation occurs throughout the year and is embedded within our society; But by raising awareness now, it is our hope the community can use the tools and dialogue provided to better create a respectful and inclusive campus for all.
If you are interested in furthering your knowledge on this topic, the Student Leader Toolkit provides resources, definitions, and processing questions for student, staff and faculty use. If you have any questions, please reach out to a member of the Housing and Residential Education staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" campaign originated from a student organization on Ohio University's campus called Students Teaching About Racism In Society (STARS). Ohio University's (STARS) organization began their "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" campaign in 2011 to combat racial and ethnic stereotypes commonly depicted in Halloween costumes. Learn more about OU STARS's poster campaign and how it has developed/changed throughout the years here.
September- Last year, Housing and Residential Education's Diversity Development Team (DDT) recognized it was important to address how cultural appropriation manifests on DU's campus, particularly around the time of Halloween, in the form of costumes, practices, and parties that appropriate certain aspects of other cultures. The DDT reached out to other universities who had also launched their own "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" campaign and generated ideas for putting together a DU poster campaign in time for Halloween.
October- Posters for DU's "My Culture is Not a Costume" are created with the help of student leaders in HRE who bravely volunteer to be a part of the campaign. The following posters were put up in residence halls and around campus to spread awareness around campaign and hopefully reduce culturally appropriative costumes during Halloween.There was a mixed response from students about the "My Culture is Not a Costume" campaign, that played out largely over the anonymous social media platform, Yik Yak. Students' comments ranged from support to strong criticism of the campaign because they felt it told them what not to do. Comments on Yik Yak not only criticized the campaign, but were derogatory and targeted the student leaders who had bravely volunteered to participate in the campaign.
In debriefing the campaign with student leaders some helpful feedback HRE received was that the campaign focused too much on what not to do/limiting students actions, versus educating students on what cultural appropriation is and how it is hurtful and problematic to student groups and individuals on campus.
November- DDT launched a response to the hurtful, bigoted, and derogatory comments on Yik Yak called "Take Back the Yak". This campaign encouraged students, staff, and community members to use Yik Yak as a positive platform for uplifting others, versus a platform where people felt comfortable hiding behind the cloak of anonymity to post cruel comments.
2016 - Present Day:
The decision is made by HRE to once again to launch the "My Culture is Not a Costume" campaign, but to take the feedback from last year and make important changes. Some of the overall changes decided in regards to the campaign are the following:
- This will be an effort taken on by the whole department with collaboration from various campus partners, not just the DDT
- There will be a greater focus on educating students and staff around cultural appropriation and the hurtful impact it has on others
- We will not use DU student faces for the campaign, but rather use Ohio University STAR's own poster campaign (with modifications relevant to DU) as the visual media for the campaign
- With this change, we also changed the campaign to be called "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" which aligns with the language Ohio University STAR's uses
- There will be active components to the campaign to further education, which include the following:
- Professional staff training for HRE and the Division of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence that explains and deconstructs cultural appropriation
- Student leader training for HRE RAs that explains cultural appropriation and facilitating dialogue with residents
- Co-program with DUPB and other offices and student organizations on Driscoll Green to celebrate Halloween and alternative ways to have a fun Holiday without appropriating other cultures.
What is Cultural Appropriation and why is it problematic?
Cultural Appropriation n. [ˈkəlCH(ə)rəl ə-ˌprō-prē-ˈā-shən]
- The taking– from a culture that is not one's own– of intellectual property, cultural expressions or artifacts, history and ways of knowledge (Ziff & Rao, 1997).
- Any instance which means commonly associated with and/or perceived as belonging to another are used to further one's own ends (Shugart, 1997).
- To take parts (symbols, artifacts, dress, words, practices, etc.) from a culture that is not your own. This can happen in a variety of forms but often around Halloween it involves wearing 'costumes' that rely on specific cultural signifies.
- A particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.
[Throughout our Nation's history, the dominant culture has had the freedom and power to take objects or artifacts from other cultures benefiting through systems of trade. This process is known as commodification. The process of commodification is when objects or artifacts are brought into systems of capital exchange. Through this process, the relationship between these objects or artifacts and their intrinsic value are lost; they become equivalent to all other commodities.
Commodification is a manifestation of cultural appropriation. "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" is aimed to eliminate the usage of costumes, clothing, and artifacts as a simple commodity. By continuing to treat cultural costumes as just another piece of clothing found in a store, we are continuing to perpetuate the existing systemic power dynamic between the dominant culture and the cultures of marginalized identities.
The reason why cultural exchange is problematic when it comes to cultural appropriation is because cultural exchange requires that when exchanging aspects from one culture to another, there is a mutual/similar power dynamic between the two.]
It is also not the same as assimilation, when marginalized people adopt elements of a dominant culture in order to survive conditions that make life more of a struggle if they don't.
Some say, for instance, that non-Western people who wear jeans and Indigenous people who speak English are taking from dominant cultures, too. But, marginalized groups don't have the power to decide if they'd prefer to stick with their customs or try on the dominant culture's traditions just for fun.
In other words, context matters.
Which means it's not about saying that you, as an individual, are a bad person if you appropriate someone else's culture. It's a complicated issue that includes our histories, our current state of affairs, and our future, as we act to eliminate oppression, instead of perpetuating it.
When cultural artifacts or symbols are reproduced or used as substitutes for existing culture it can be detrimental to those who belong to that culture.
How You Can Address The Issue
Here are some of the ways you can start to address these concerns.
- If you don't know what cultural appropriation is, look it up. Read some articles and watch some videos on different views and experiences surrounding cultural appropriation. We have provided a few resources below to help springboard this self-work.
- Be open-minded. If this is new for you, try to listen for understanding.
Engage in dialogue
- Bring up subjects like cultural appropriation with your friends, classmates, and the RAs in your building after you do some self-work. See what their views are and share your own knowledge and experiences.
- Dialogue is collaborative and about people working together to find a common understanding. It is about exploring, listening, and re-examining your positions, values, and assumptions.
Examine your own practices
- Are you wearing a costume during Halloween? Ask yourself some critical questions about your costume. Is your costume based on someone's race, ethnicity, or culture? Does my cultural use of stereotypes make a joke or to be sexy? Is your costume exploiting another culture?
Be an advocate
- We aren't saying to be the costume police, but if you see a costume that doesn't sit right with you, start a conversation with that person. Make sure you are keeping yourself safe in these conversations. Be mindful of the environment and who is in the room.
To learn more, please consider the following on and off-campus resources:
- Housing & Residential Education - email us if you have questions, want to learn more, or find ways to get involved
- Center for Multicultural Excellence
- From Cultural Exchange to Transculturation: A Review and Reconceptualization of Cultural Appropriation - Richard A. Rogers (Article)
- 7 Myths about Cultural Appropriation DEBUNKED! - Decoded MTV (Video)
- Student Leader Toolkit for student, faculty, and staff.