So it seems that Halloween has become the latest occasion for exposing the academy’s baffling double standards: Some topics are met with hyper-sensitivity, while others are dismissed with cold numbness. At Johns Hopkins, a group of frat boys held a “Halloween in the Hood” party with a skeleton dangling from the ceiling. They were denounced as racists and accused of supporting lynching. Student groups protested and called for new “diversity training” to prevent such abominations from recurring. The remorseful party hosts prostrated themselves before their critics, apologizing for their “shameful” insensitivity. The university president called their party “deeply disturbing.”
At Penn, meanwhile, a student came to a party dressed as a suicide bomber, with faux dynamite strapped to his chest. (He said he was a “freedom martyr.”) He posed for a series of pictures in which he mock-executed infidels who kneeled on the ground in front of him as he held a toy assault rifle to the backs of their heads. And what happened? Why, the university president stood next to him for a smiling photograph, of course. After outside news sources noticed the affair, an apology eventually came from both the president and the student involved. But there was nothing like the outrage that swept Hopkins.
On an abstract level, such distorted moral priorities are hardly a surprise. But it’s always shocking to see them illustrated so vividly.