Here’s why Active Minds “Toned it Down Taupe”

Courtesy of the Grizzly Staff

A member of Active Minds’ executive board responds to “Light It Up Blue” feedback

Sarah DeFelice

Active Minds has received a few negative responses to the “Light it Up Blue” event scheduled for April 3. As the vice president and publicity chair for Active Minds, I would like to apologize for any misunderstandings people may have had from our initial email.

Active Minds has autistic members on the board who advocated for and helped plan the event, as well as outside friends with autism who requested that we participate in this campaign and we did not at all intend the event to be negative.

We understand the issue with the color blue—the “Light It Up” campaign uses blue because it is a color typically associated with boys.

According to a report by Graham Satchell of BBC News, which was cited in a campus-wide email sent by Dr. Jennifer Stevenson, a professor whose primary research is on the autism spectrum, boys are more commonly diagnosed with autism, which may be problematic because it leads to the underdiagnoses of girls.

The members of the Active Minds executive board, including myself, discussed this issue before the event was planned. We decided that we would have a follow-up meeting focused on issues with gender and cognitive diversity after the “Light it Up Blue” event, and that event was scheduled for later in April.

We would also like to reiterate that none of us on the executive board support Autism Speaks, due to prior knowledge of the organization’s issues. However, I think we may not have realized how connected “Light it Up Blue” and Autism Speaks are.

Dr. Stevenson informed us that the groups are more intricately connected than we had thought. She explained to us that proceeds from “Light it Up Blue” merchandise serve Autism Speaks, and provided links to further online resources which condemn the campaign and explain why. In light of that, the Active Minds executive board discussed a change in plans.

I have read through the response emails and posts and recognize the sincerity of their claims. The constructive criticism was taken seriously by the board and we have voted to replace the “Light it Up Blue” event with a “Tone it Down Taupe” event instead.

A blog titled “Radical Neurodivergence Speaking” features a post by blogger Neurodivergent K, who outlines that the primary goal of the taupe campaign is to encourage autism acceptance. The blog post by Neurodivergent K also states that the taupe campaign is  not affiliated with Autism Speaks, and advocates for toning down the fearful rhetoric surrounding autism awareness. Instead the taupe campaign uses the symbolism of an unobtrusive beige color to represent the toned-down sensory sensitivity of people who lack autism, and this campaign is generally preferred by the autistic community.

On behalf of Active Minds, I thank those of you who gave us feedback. We’d encourage you in the future to please voice any concerns you may have to us directly through email, and to attend our meetings if you have input you would like us to hear.

To find out more information about Active Minds and our mission, please go to our organization webpage at

Sarah DeFelice is a sophomore and vice president of Active Minds.