“As a Christian community, IWU is careful not to celebrate the pagan holiday called Halloween, with its emphasis on the occult, witches, the dead, ghosts, and rituals. For this reason students should avoid dressing in costumes or otherwise promoting Halloween during this time of year. Therefore, any event or activity on or near Halloween which may include costumes must be approved by Student Development in advance of the promotion and marketing of the event.”
This is Indiana Wesleyan University’s policy on Halloween as it appears in the Student Handbook. Any student who lives on campus, however, knows the rule is not so black and white. In the past, there has been some amount of freedom granted when it comes to this policy.
It is not uncommon to see students in costume around this time of year. Many decorate their dorm rooms and even McConn workers wear the occasional fairy wings and tiara as they work.
“In my opinion, the university has gone with the spirit of the law, rather than the letter,” said Vice President for Student Development Andrew Parker. “I think it’s important to remember the university is more looking at what’s the intent, what is it promoting, things like that.”
Parker said the policy is about not promoting things that go against the values of IWU, no matter what time of the year, but especially around Halloween because of its association with the occult.
“However, I don’t think the university has cracked down on that if a student is dressed up as a cowboy going to class,” Parker said. “I would hesitate to say it’s a hard-fast stance against costumes. That’s why the university allows for that [permission from student development] exception.”
When students tried to have a Halloween party in their town house in October 2012, Parker said Student Development was willing to work with them, as long as the kinds of costumes were monitored and the name “Halloween” was kept out of it.
The party did not happen, but this was because of policies besides the Halloween one.
Associate Vice President for Residence Life Bronson Pasko said that within ResLife, they try to use the university policy as the standard, but policies like this “will always be open to some interpretation.”
“Sometimes it can be hard. … This year half of our resident directors are new,” said Pasko in reference to informing new Resident Directors about all of the policies and expectations of the school.
He said ResLife tries to be consistent, but sometimes policies are treated differently in different dorms. These issues are dealt with as they come up.
“I would prefer to have something that allows us some space to have some discretion rather than something that has every single … [little] item that is allowed and isn’t,” said Pasko.
According to Parker, this is not a policy that has come up much in the past, and Student Development has not received many complaints from students. If students want to initiate conversations about the policy, Parker said he would be open to discuss it.