Student banners

This bed-sheet banner hung over the weekend at a student rental on Mill Street attracted hundreds of critical comments on social media, plus a visit from the Athens Police. Provided photo.

Sexually explicit bed-sheet banners unfurled on the front of rental houses by Ohio University students cropped up during the student move-in weekend in Athens, generating plenty of outrage on social media.

Images of several of these banners – variously described as offensive, vulgar, gross, hate speech, ribald and/or funny – showed up in social-media postings over the weekend. It was reminiscent of OU’s back-to-school weekend in 2016 when a number of sexually explicit banners on student rentals received ample negative attention in social and news media. 

One of the prime examples of the offensive banners – a sign hung on a student rental on Mill Street reading. “We can’t stick OUr fist in ur personality” – generated significant backlash over the weekend. 

OU spokesperson Carly Leatherwood, when asked for a comment and provided with a picture of the banner noted above, said that the signs do not reflect the university’s “values or our commitment to an inclusive community.”

“While we cannot prevent individuals from displaying these signs at off-campus housing locations, we have reached out to the city of Athens to ensure codes are being enforced,” Leatherwood wrote in an email Saturday. “We have also been in contact with Athens Police Department throughout weekend. The police responded to this home as well as others and the sign was taken down. Students found in violation of the Student Code of Conduct will go through that process. It is our hope that students make good decisions, and when they fall short of our values, we will continue to hold them accountable.”

A lecturer in OU’s English Department provided The NEWS with a copy of her communication with OU President Duane Nellis and other administrators over the weekend about the banner. (Some social-media posts suggested that people offended by the offensive banners contact Nellis.)

“Signs like these contribute to the rape culture our university has worked so hard to counter, and I am positive you do not want this sort of message attached to our institution,” the lecturer said. “I am shocked and appalled that signs such as these continue to appear year after year, and I email with the hope that something can be done to convey that we do not tolerate this behavior at Ohio U.”

Nellis in a brief response to the email said he agrees that the banner is “totally inappropriate,” and he thanked her for bringing it to his attention, adding that the university had notified the city about the banner, and said he will issue a statement Monday (today).

The “fist” banner was just one of many that showed up on various student rental homes over the weekend. Some were the work of male students, while others apparently were hung by female students. One of the latter, for example, stated, “Come get these buns, daddiez and sons.” An Instagram photo of that banner showed three smiling young women standing on each side of the banner.

Then Athens Service-Safety Director Paula Horan-Moseley told The NEWS in late August 2016 that the banners violate the city’s zoning code relating to signage. The code requires people to obtain approval from the city before erecting signs. The city does have a fine for violating the sign regulations.

The city’s Police and Code Enforcement departments were visibly present on Mill Street and other OU student-heavy streets over the weekend, working to speak with student residents about the banners and asking them to take them down.

Other examples of the banners found in Athens over the weekend and late last week, found on the Instagram account BarstoolOh (a non-OU affiliated subsidiary of the popular social media account Barstool Sports) include: “Miami girls suck, OU girls swallow”; “Freshman, Crystal isn’t the only backdoor you can get in” (an apparent reference to the uptown student bar); “Move-in special – freshman boys eat free”; and “Kneepad rentals, freshman girls 50 percent off.”

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