University of Kent students furious at being told they can't dress up as cowboys, Tories or chavs

Peter Stubley
Sombreros would also be banned under the fancy dress guidelines being drawn up by Kent student union: Steven Paston//PA Images

Plans by the University of Kent's student union to ban “offensive” fancy dress outfits including Tories and chavs have provoked an angry response from students.

The draft guidelines have been described as ”ludicrous, delusional and absurd” as cowboys, priests and Mexican sombreros were also included among the list of inappropriate party costumes.

A petition calling for the student union’s proposals to be overturned has already attracted more than 300 signatures.

It reads: “Whilst Kent Union’s intentions may have been well-meaning, banning outfits are steps in the wrong direction. The authors of this petition consider dressing how you want a fundamental of the freedom of expression.”

The guidelines, which were first reported by the Canterbury Journal newspaper, are intended to prevent fancy dress from being “offensive, discriminatory and prejudicial to an individual’s race, gender,disability or sexual orientation or based on stereotypes.”

Its list of unacceptable costumes includes blackface, Mexican sombreros, Nazis, crusaders, priests and nuns, cowboys and Native Americans, Isis bombers, Israeli soldiers and the prophet Mohammed.

Notorious personalities such as Harvey Weinstein, paedophile DJ Jimmy Savile and Caitlyn Jenner, the transsexual TV star, are also frowned upon.

Chavs and Tories are included among the outfits that the union describes as “centred around political group stereotypes or the stereotypes of different levels of perceived class ... to diminish their worth or validity.”

The union said: “This again would promote an unsafe and exclusive campus to which we do not tolerate."

Acceptable costumes include “cave people, aliens, the United Nations, Ancient Greeks and Romans.”

The petition, set up by the “Liberty Union”, agrees that “dressing as a Nazi officer or blacking up ... are highly distasteful and effectively hateful” but objects that other restrictions are “overtly one-sided.”

It ends with a reference to the portrayal of students as “snowflakes” by stating: “We ... are not made of snow.”

Several students have commented on the change.org page that their union is “out of touch with reality” and has “no right to govern how we have fun amongst ourselves on campus.”

One added: “This is actually ridiculous. How does a chav even dress anyway? And why can’t I be Pocahontas if I want to? She was my fave.”

The Kent student union said in a statement that the guidelines are “a working document in its draft stages and one which we will be continually reviewing.”

It added: “Over the past few years we have witnessed incidents where student groups have worn inappropriate fancy dress clothing which has caused offence to some of our students at our university. It is a priority for us to promote an inclusive campus and to be respectful of all students, taking into account their lived experiences and points of view and that is what we should be focusing on here.

“We are being proactive in looking out for all students whilst empowering them to have a great time at Kent. We are aware that students generally have an understanding of these issues, and most fancy dress events are not problematic, but we believe it is important to raise awareness of potentially problematic themes and work with our student groups to ensure successful student run events.”