Fall leaves on Case Quad

World Series, Halloween offer opportunity for cultural education

“Educational” probably isn’t the first adjective to come to mind when people mention Halloween and the World Series.

But some at Case Western Reserve are working to make sure even these two extracurricular activities provide an opportunity for learning.

The common subject: the negative effects that some celebratory attire can have on others.

In the case of the Cleveland Indians, playing in baseball’s championships for the first time since 1997, the issue involves the team’s Chief Wahoo logo. The image has drawn intense criticism as racist and offensive. Some fans, however, consider the logo an integral part of the team’s tradition, and do not understand why the caricature is so controversial.

At the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences this week, some students raised the issue, and Dean Grover “Cleve” Gilmore emailed the Mandel School community. Expressing understanding of people’s desire to support their team, he nevertheless added, “I ask that you consider the full impact on members of our community when you choose your attire.” Later in the week, the school held a sustained dialogue session regarding the issue.

At the university’s Office of Multicultural Affairs this week, Director Naomi Sigg noted that students and staff members had discussed the issue. Some were angry, some upset, and some just incredulous that the team still would have the mascot in 2016.

That said, Sigg also saw potential benefit. “[It’s] reigniting people to learn more about heritage.”

Coincidentally, her office has been working since the spring with Native American students who wanted to form an organization. Called the Indigenous Alliance, the group is hosting a Native American Heritage Cultural Dinner Nov. 9 in Leutner Commons, and will hold additional events Nov. 14–18 to mark Native American Heritage Week. Sigg said that another possible activity later in the year would be a screening of In Whose Honor, a documentary about a Spokane Indian named Charlene Teeters who began protesting the University of Illinois mascot, Chief Illiniwek, in the late 1980s.

Meanwhile, with multiple formal and informal campus gatherings to mark Halloween this weekend, the university’s student newspaper, The Observer, took the opportunity to reflect on debates about costumes that have taken place at universities nationwide. In an editorial offering both context and perspective, The Observer argued against both formal limits on choices and attacks on peers for their positions on costume issues.

“We should treat one another with respect, not behave in ways that mock or belittle one another,” members of The Observer wrote. “When you dress up this Halloween, think of what you are representing. The push against the costumes should not be to take rights away, but it should be about addressing the ignorance behind them.”

Marilyn S. Mobley, vice president for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, also encouraged people “to be mindful” of images that others might find problematic—whether they involve Major League Baseball or Halloween.

“As one of the leading institutions of higher education in this nation,” Mobley said. “We have the opportunity to lead by the example we set as an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.”