Sexually explicit bed-sheet banners unfurled over Move-In Weekend in front of Ohio University students’ rental homes in neighborhoods near campus once again have raised the ire of many Athens residents and others.
However, several OU sororities earlier this week pushed back with responsive bed-sheet banners, declaring support for survivors of sexual assault.
Images of several of the offending banners began showing up on social-media posts on Instagram and Twitter late last week as returning OU students crowded into town. It was reminiscent of the university’s back-to-school weekend last year and in 2016, when a number of similarly explicit banners on student rentals received ample negative attention in social and news media.
One of the banners that received negative attention was typical of the genre, with the ribald message supposedly intended for parents dropping off their OU student daughters: “Price of keg: $117. DJ: $500. Ur daughter tonight: Free.” While male students appeared to be responsible for most of the several questionable banners, at least one sexually explicit banner was hung by female students.
That was in stark contrast to reponsive banners unfurled earlier this week by several OU sororities with supportive messages for survivors of sexual assault, including, “You taught them to be fearful; we’ll teach them they deserve better #SigKapStandsWithSurvivors”; “No means no”; and “Sisters against sexual assault.”
In response to this reporter noting that higher rate of sexual assaults typically are reported during the first few months of OU’s fall semester (as happens on college campuses across the country), the Twitter account for OU’s 10 Panhellenic sororities on campus (@OhioPanhellenic) tweeted this:
“That’s exactly why we did the banners this early!” the account wrote. “WPA believes survivors, and we want them to know that we are by their side every school year, right from the start. #WPABelievesSurvivors.”
OU spokesperson Carly Leatherwood, when asked for a comment last year 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 last year. “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.”
Leatherwood added in a comment Friday (Aug. 23) that OU has more information at link (located here) on its website about how to report the banners to the city code enforcement office.
Both the city of Athens and university were on the lookout for the banners throughout the weekend. Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said in a brief comment Tuesday that the Code Enforcement office identified eight banners posted throughout the Move-In Weekend time period that were taken down by the rental residents who put them up. Those who hung up the banners were “very compliant” in taking them down, he said.
“What is typical is the Police Department or Code Enforcement will circle back later and check in again to make sure they weren’t re-deployed,” Patterson said. “It was indicated to me that (students putting banners back up) didn’t happen.”
It's likely that the city of Athens and university already have been on the lookout for these banners. One banner, pictured with this article, was unfurled above Big Mamma's Burritos on South Court Street sometime late Friday morning (Aug. 23). It reads "moms and daughters, free sausage burrito upstairs." However, as you can see in the picture (taken around 1:30 p.m. that same day), it was moved inside at some point early Friday afternoon. Another photo shared on the Instagram account BarstoolOh showed several college-aged women with a similarly sexually explicit banner.