Phanes College, a small liberal arts school in rural Vermont, has taken a bold step forward in the fight for gender equality. This year students attending any on-campus Halloween festivities are required to wear gender-neutral costumes in an effort to dismantle stereotypes and foster a safe environment for everyone.
In a campus-wide email, Phanes dean Benedict Craven said students will face stiff punishment — including expulsion while still required to pay tuition — for wearing any costumes deemed problematic. These include, but are not limited to:
- Any costume deemed gendernormative, such as devil, witch, pirate, or sexy nurse
- Any costume that upholds European standards of beauty, such as Bride Of Frankenstein
- Any costume depicting human genitalia
“Halloween is a when students make attempts at humor,” Dean Craven continued. “But given the deep divisions within our country, this is no time to be funny.”
Instead, Craven suggested students wear costumes representing inanimate objects, such as “cookie,” “milk” or “bubble wrap.” As is the case with all campus party nights, he added, free condoms will be available.
Students at Phanes were largely supportive of the new costume guidelines and applauded them vigorously with jazz hands. According to the school’s student-run newspaper, The Daily NPC, social media buzz indicates that most popular costume this year will be “Socialist Teletubby.”
The issue of cultural appropriation, which swept college campuses over Halloween 2015, has largely been surmounted, said Phanes’ Chief Officer of Diversity & Retribution Sissy Leach, and the current battlefront is on Halloween’s imposing of antiquated gender norms on students without their consent. “After multiple meetings, we concluded that virtually all costumes have some basis in heteronormative and cisgender iconographies,” said Leach. “We’re confident that draconian authoritarianism will put us on the right side of history.”
However, history may not let Phanes off so easily.
In 2008 the school came under criticism when the New York Times reported that of the college’s 1,812 full-time students, 100% were white. In an effort to correct the imbalance, Phanes began building the largest diversity office of any college in the nation, with an annual operating budget of $16 million and a staff of 158 administrators, all of which are white females. Leach is the highest-paid diversity officer in the country, with an annual salary of $478,920, and yet the student body remains 99.99% white (one student from the class of 2022 claims to be part Cherokee).
Annual tuition plus room-and-board at the leafy school founded in 1793 and vilified for its colonial architecture runs $60K per year. One in ten students attends Phanes on financial aid, and seven out of ten have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
The school’s mascot is The Herbivore, and its Division III football team boasts the longest losing streak in history with a record of 0-1,272. The football program was defunded in 2016 when the quarterback, the NCAA’s first Asian female, was taken off of life support.